FlexSim HC Featured in Master’s Thesis

Graduate student evaluates FlexSim HC in master thesis study

Pieter Dat, a graduate student at the Eindhoven University of Technology in Eindhoven, North Brabant, Netherlands, has submitted and defended his thesis on the applicability of simulation software packages in the healthcare domain.

His research, titled “Business process simulation in healthcare: the applicability of general-purpose and application-oriented simulation software,” was conducted at the Maastricht University Medical Center. It focused on FlexSim HC, as an application-oriented simulation package, and CPN-tools, a general-purpose simulation package.

Using a framework published by Daniel L. Moody, Mr. Dat evaluated the actual effectiveness and the perceived ease of use of both software packages. To measure the effectiveness of the software, he identified relevant features and characteristics and determined whether they were included or not.

“Most of the features were available in FlexSim [HC] so it was, in that way, more appropriate than the general purpose software,” Dat said.

The measurement of perceived ease of use, on the other hand, required the use of subjective results provided by healthcare professionals who took part in the study.

“I organized workshops with the healthcare practitioners and asked them how particular features… looked like in both types of software and what they could see in each simulation software and what they thought would be easier to use,” he explained.

In regard to FlexSim HC’s ease of use, Mr. Dat noted that the drop-down functions make it easier to think about the model itself and not worry about programming. He mentioned that in other packages, “most of the functions and most of the design issues should be programmed by the modeler,” while adding that programming has “some advantages, such as the flexibility of programming process models and to adapt to the context which is modeled.”

He also agreed that FlexSim HC’s 3D environment is a positive and helpful feature for modelers.

“It’s like if you are inside the model itself, or inside the area where the different processes take place,” he said, adding, “the healthcare practitioners really like it because they were planning a renovation of the department and by looking at the model they quickly imagined how it would look in the future.”

In his thesis, Mr. Dat also observes a terminology gap between simulation engineers and healthcare managers. He noted that oftentimes healthcare practitioners are placed into a managerial role where they are thinking about processes and resources, areas that do not represent their formal training and background. He believes that simulation consultants play an important role in fostering understanding between the two groups.

“Simulation consultants should show what simulation can do to improve the processes in the healthcare domain,” he said. “[Simulation consultants] can show what they (healthcare managers) can do with the models—they can change parameters and they can design scenarios themselves.”

Mr. Dat said that he would use FlexSim HC in the future, especially for the 3D environment as well as the Patient Track, which he said makes the software distinctive when compared to general purpose simulation software.

His thesis can be found at this location.

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