Flecs, Flow Efficiency in Cancer Treatment


- a perfect candidate for the latest planning tools.

When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer she is drawn into a network of examinations, tests and treatments
with interdependencies in several steps. Because the prognosis for recovery is tied to how quickly she gets help, it is important to minimise the time between the fi€rst doctor’s appointment and the commencement of treatment.

SICS has carried out a feasibility study for Östra Götalands Landsting to assess how planning can be used to coordinate resources to achieve an efficient treatment process for breast cancer. 

The fi€rst part of the pilot study comprised an investigation stage in which the researchers learned about all aspects of the care process. The researchers then built a computer simulation model to better understand the workings of the process and to investigate which parts of the process are suitable for more advanced planning. The model can handle many dižfferent aspects and provide insights that are otherwise difficult to gain. It can, for instance, detect that increasing resources in a particular process step might not result in time gains because the patient still has to wait for other parts of the process.

The goal for the breast cancer team in Linköping is a lead time of less than 28 days from the fi€rst doctor’s appointment to the start of treatment. The simulation showed, however, that it is often impossible to live up to that goal with the current process and methods.

The simulation model was used to estimate how congested the dižfferent process steps are and to evaluate possible process changes. Being able to explore the process, and predict in advance how changes affžect the lead time and the load curve, aroused great interest among the hospital staffž.

Computer simulation gives a picture - planning gives a solution

The purpose of the simulation is to investigate whether there is potential for shorter lead times, and if so, where to
invest in resources. Shorter lead times can be achieved by good planning. Naturally, sensitivity and  flexibility are required in this context; for instance, a patient may need a few extra days to absorb the news that she has cancer before an operation can be scheduled. Nevertheless, SICS believes a more industrial approach to the planning process would benefi€t everybody involved.

“Health care is a perfect candidate for our planning methods” says Sara Gestrelius, project leader at SICS. “I really wish that the health care system had better decision support tools. That would enable a care that is more adapted and coordinated, both for the patient and for the health professionals.”