Managing patient visits for a busy team of district nurses takes real skill. Matching nurses skills with often complex patient needs, and the locations of visits can be a real challenge. That's where a team of computer and mathematical modellers and researchers have helped.
They worked with Solent NHS Trust and care company Abicare to factor in all the considerations a manager has to make in planning daily visiting schedules for district nursing teams. This was then turned into a computer model and algorithm to see if it was possible to create a useful practical tool for managers.
The team found it was possible to develop algorithms that create routes and schedules automatically for district nurses. These algorithms can incorporate many practical constraints that nurses encounter during planning, and produce routes and schedules that save time. It can also work for social care workers if the rules in the algorithm are adapted for their needs.
It's an exciting development because it shows that the idea can work in the real world, and have an impact on the care of patients.
The benefits of this computerised 'tool' for planning are that it can free up more time for nursing and care staff to spend with the patient and tailor their care to the individual person.
It can also improve efficiency in planning visits and reduce the stress for managers organising daily schedules. It might also give policy makers the opportunity to test a hypothetical system for example: What if demand increases? How many nurses and care staff will we need to recruit and train?
The work by the multi-disciplinary research team behind the computerised scheduling tool has continued to develop the idea beyond it's initial work to look at working with social care providers and extending its use to help schedule complicated social care packages for people leaving hospitals.
Read the project page here