Speeding Up Decision Support: Investigating the Distributed Simulation of a Healthcare Supply Chain

Speeding Up Decision Support: Investigating the Distributed Simulation of a Healthcare Supply Chain

Navonil Mustafee (Warwick Business School, UK), Simon J.E. Taylor (Brunel University, UK), Korina Katsaliaki (Middlesex University, UK) and Sally Brailsford (University of Southampton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-030-1.ch016
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Abstract

Discrete-Event Simulation (DES) is a decision support technique that allows stakeholders to conduct experiments with models that represent real-world systems of interest. Its use in healthcare is comparatively new. Healthcare needs have grown and healthcare organisations become larger, more complex and more costly. There has never been a greater need for carefully informed decisions and policy. DES is valuable as it can provide evidence of how to cope with these complex health problems. However, the size of a healthcare system can lead to large models that can take an extremely long time to simulate. In this chapter the authors investigate how a technique called distributed simulation allows us to use multiple computers to speed up this simulation. Based on a case study of the UK National Blood Service they demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique and argue that it is a vital technique in healthcare informatics with respect to supporting decision making in large healthcare systems.
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Introduction

Computer simulation, or just simulation, is a decision support technique that allows stakeholders to conduct experiments with models that represent real-world systems of interest (Pidd, 2004a). It has been widely used for many years in domains such as manufacturing, logistics and telecommunication.. However, its use in healthcare is comparatively new. It is only really during the last decade that the application of simulation in health care has grown substantially (Fone et al, 2003). Healthcare needs have also grown in the same period and healthcare organizations become larger, more complex and more costly. There has never been a greater need for carefully informed decisions and policy. Computer simulation is valuable as it can provide evidence of how to cope with these complex health problems. It can be used as an alternative to “learning by doing” or empirical research (Royston, 1999). Furthermore, if carried out correctly, simulation modelling gives stakeholders the opportunity to participate in model develop and, hopefully, gain deeper understanding of the problems that they face. As a result, decision-makers and stakeholders can gain a new perspective on the relationships between the available resources, the level of the system’s performance and the overall quality of the healthcare provision.

Key Terms in this Chapter

CSP: COTS Simulation Package (CSP). In this thesis the term CSP is used to refer to simulation packages for both Discrete-Event Simulation (DES) and Monte Carlo Simulation (MCS).

HLA: The High Level Architecture (HLA) is an IEEE standard for distributed simulation.

CSP: COTS Simulation Package (CSP). In this thesis the term CSP is used to refer to simulation packages for both Discrete-Event Simulation (DES) and Monte Carlo Simulation (MCS).

Discrete Event Simulation (DES): DES is an approach to modelling using interconnected blocks to represent interaction between specific processes and is run on a computer using mathematical models. The latter are stochastic, that is they involve input generated according to probability distributions. A discrete model assumes that the state of the system changes only at specific times, often referred to as events.

COTS: Commercial, Off-The-Shelf (COTS). This term is used to refer to software applications that can be purchased from software vendors.

COTS: Commercial, Off-The-Shelf (COTS). This term is used to refer to software applications that can be purchased from software vendors.

HLA: The High Level Architecture (HLA) is an IEEE standard for distributed simulation.

HLA-RTI: The High Level Architecture-Run Time Infrastructure (HLA-RTI) is distributed simulation middleware that implements the interface specifications outlined by the HLA standard.

Discrete Event Simulation (DES): DES is an approach to modelling using interconnected blocks to represent interaction between specific processes and is run on a computer using mathematical models. The latter are stochastic, that is they involve input generated according to probability distributions. A discrete model assumes that the state of the system changes only at specific times, often referred to as events.

Rtiexec: rtiexec.exe is the HLA-RTI middleware program.

Rtiexec: rtiexec.exe is the HLA-RTI middleware program.

HLA-RTI: The High Level Architecture-Run Time Infrastructure (HLA-RTI) is distributed simulation middleware that implements the interface specifications outlined by the HLA standard.

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