The first accurate model to help local hospital Trusts manage resources during the COVID-19 outbreak was developed using training from our Operational Research training programme, the Health Service Modelling Associates (HSMA) Programme. System Dynamics is a form of computer modelling that tries to understand the flows within a system and was used to predict peaks in COVID-19 infection rates.
A member of our annual HSMA programme received training in Systems Dynamics while taking part in the programme and went on to develop the model. The HSMA programme helps health service employees across the South West to use data modelling to tackle a work-based research project to solve a specific issue or question for their organisation.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak it could be difficult for NHS Trusts to access the necessary data to predict admissions, leading them to free up bed space in anticipation of the levels of infection rates seen in other European countries. The use of a System Dynamics approach enables Trusts to keep up with the pace of change by producing a model to accurately predict peaks of demand. The model has been widely adopted after being presented to MPs.
Speaking about the impact of the model a clinician commented: “One of the specific advantages of the System Dynamics approach is that clinical commissioners could really see how the model worked and why. The tool also offers a very visual way to engage with the data.”