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Now it’s easy to turn your annual plans into weekly ones

24/06/2013
by Rob Findlay

Just this month, we’ve had three different hospitals tell us that Gooroo Planner is proving unexpectedly accurate at forecasting weekly demand and activity. Every week they track outturn against plan, and are struck by how closely each new data point tracks the plan they drew up months ago.

In one hospital, Planner told them to expect a surge in Orthopaedics at the end of March, which they didn’t think would happen and didn’t prepare for. So when the surge duly arrived and threw their waiting times out, they took notice. Now they are using Gooroo Planner much more closely, to plan week by week for the rest of the year and especially for the coming winter.

How come these weekly plans are so accurate? Is Gooroo Planner some kind of super-intelliegent neural network, projecting the future from Twitter trends and chaos theory? Well, no, it’s actually very straightforward.

Once you’ve made your overall plans for the coming year, taking into account all your constraints including limited resources and waiting times targets, Planner turns them into week-by-week profiles. The starting assumption is usually that next year’s seasonality will be much like last year’s, but sometimes the profiles show that this would lead to capacity or waiting times problems mid-year. If that happens, operational managers can change the weekly profiles simply by clicking the points on the chart, until capacity and waiting times are in balance through all seasons.

The three hospitals who are finding their weekly forecasts so accurate haven’t even adjusted their profiles; they just replicated what happened last year in their assumptions. That, surely, is a simple enough process that anybody could do it, without the need for advanced software like Gooroo Planner?

You might think so, but in practice weekly profiling turns out to be rather complex to model, and the sheer volume of calculation required quickly overwhelms home-grown spreadsheets. In an effort to simplify their week-by-week planning, analysts often make the assumption that activity will be delivered evenly through the year. Unfortunately that is far from the truth. GPs are often away during half terms, so outpatient referrals drop. Hospital activity tends to dip a bit at Easter, and a lot in the summer and Christmas holidays. Any dip in outpatients has a knock-on effect on inpatient demand. There are other seasonal effects on demand too, especially in specialties like dermatology, emergency medicine, and trauma. So plans based on pro-rata activity quickly deviate from outturn, lack operational credibility, and fail to stick as a basis for operational planning. In practice, there is no substitute for doing the job properly.

Comprehensive weekly planning with Gooroo Planner is already straightforward, and detailed profiles can be viewed and downloaded at any level of detail with just a few mouse-clicks. All reports are designed to be easy for operational managers to use themselves, without needing advanced technical skills. And we’re about to make it even easier to plan your whole health economy by providing an automated interface (an API, in the jargon) so that NHS organisations can link their business intelligence systems automatically with Gooroo Planner and build weekly planning into their own dashboards.

If you would like a free on-site demonstration of Gooroo Planner, please get in touch. Just click this link to send us an email: info@gooroo.co.uk

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