Automated planning with the Planner API
06/02/2020by Rob Findlay
Feeling a little hazy about what the Planner API does, and why? Here’s a quick briefing to get you up to speed.
How you probably use Planner now – on the web
At the moment, you probably sit down at the keyboard to create your Gooroo Planner reports (i.e. the capacity plans for your hospital).
You start by running several SQL Server queries to create the necessary data files, covering outpatient activity, additions and waiting lists, and the same again for admitted patients – probably six or seven patient-level data files, each covering every specialty in the hospital.
Then you login to Gooroo Planner, and go through the data upload/update wizard for each file in turn.
Finally, you go through the “Create a report” wizard to calculate capacity plans for all the scenarios you need.
This kind of interactive work has one big advantage: flexibility. You can switch from one scenario to another, change the data, run the modelling forwards and backwards in time, and everything else that Gooroo Planner allows. There is definitely a place for this, and often it’s the best way to get the task done.
But there are also disadvantages. You need to make time to actually do it. You have to generate and upload each data file yourself. You have to get all the settings right, in all the wizards, otherwise you may get unexpectedly different results.
And there is another disadvantage. The web interface is designed to generate week-by-week and month-by-month planning profiles ‘on the fly’, so that you can edit and tinker with them in a flexible way while you work. But if you need those profiles for every clinical service at once… well, that isn’t really what the web interface is designed for.
What the Planner API does
The Planner API lets you automate all this.
You can already use your operating system tools to run your SQL queries automatically, perhaps every week or every month.
Similarly, you can set the Planner API client (a small piece of software provided by us, which you run on your local machine) to run automatically when those queries have finished. It zips up your data, together with a ‘config file’ which contains instructions about how to process the data – that’s all the instructions you currently provide as you step through the wizards.
The API client sends it all to our server, where Gooroo Planner processes the data and creates all the reports. It will even share those reports automatically with other Gooroo Planner users, if you list their usernames in the config file.
When it’s done, it returns a full set of results (including all the week-by-week and month-by-month profiles for all services) to the local folder of your choice.
Why it does it
This is useful for several reasons.
Firstly, and most obviously, this is automatic so you don’t have to lift a finger or even remember to do it. It can all happen while you’re tucked up in bed. People tell us that the advantages of having up-to-date plans dropping like clockwork into their Gooroo Planner accounts every week or every month should not be underestimated.
Secondly, a business intelligence (BI) system can collect those planning profiles, so that whenever managers look up their demand, capacity, activity, waiting lists and waiting times in the BI system, the actuals are always compared with the organisation’s preferred planning scenario(s), making it easy to see whether they’re off track and why. All this, without any of them having to login to Gooroo Planner or open a spreadsheet attachment.
Thirdly, it’s often useful to get all the week-by-week and month-by-month planning profiles in one go, especially when somebody is demanding comprehensive planning profiles from you. Some people run the API ‘manually’ on their desktop computer, as well as having it run automatically on a server, to speed up scenario generation and get all the detailed results back for this kind of analysis.
You won’t always want to run the Planner API, and often the flexibility of the web interface is exactly what you need. But for regularly refreshing your favourite planning scenarios to keep the management of the hospital ticking over, the Planner API is the tool for the job.