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CMCRC Health data scientist identifies crucial ways to improve patient care and cut costs

Efficient storage and management of medical supplies reduces the time clinical staff have to spend on routine logistical functions and decreases the chance of accidentally choosing the wrong medication for a patient.

When a patient is admitted to hospital, the efficient storage and management of pharmaceutical medical supplies is likely to be the last thing on their mind. Yet good medical stock management has a significant impact on the quality of patient care.

According to a journal paper published in Operations Research for Health Care, inefficient or unnecessary logistical activities in hospitals have an adverse effect on patient care. Co-authored by Dr Nazanin Esmaili (a former CMCRC Health data scientist now with Digital Health CRC), the paper reveals that nurses and other healthcare providers often lose valuable time because medicines or supplies are not readily available.

The paper referenced a survey conducted by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices which revealed that 97% of nurses are concerned about medication errors. Those surveyed believed the design and/or use of medicinal cabinets have contributed to errors, with 60 per cent of those errors are caused by similar drug names or appearance.

“Unfortunately, these errors are often not caught until the patient receives the incorrect medication. So we have been working on a mixed integer programming [MIP] model to help clinicians store medications and medical supplies in space-constrained, decentralised Automated Dispensing Devices on hospital patient floors,” says Dr Esmaili.

“97% of nurses believe the design and/or use of medicinal cabinets have contributed to errors.”

Dr Esmaili and her colleagues have also proposed a second MIP model that addresses human errors associated with the selection of pharmaceuticals from floor storage. This model not only selects the best set of medications for storage but also determines their optimal layout within the cabinet.

Reducing costs in health logistics using data

Inefficient medical management also adversely impacts the running costs of a hospital. According to some estimates, clinical personnel spend more than 10 percent of their time on logistics tasks, inflating the costs associated with hospital operations. An average of 30 to 40 percent of hospital expenses can be attributed to logistics-related activities, while inventory costs count for between 10 and 18 percent of total revenues.

Dr Esmaili’s research shows that using these models can significantly reduce the time spent by clinical staff on routine logistical functions, while making efficient use of limited space and decreasing risks associated with errors in the selection of medication.

Dr Esmaili

Dr. Nazanin Esmaili

Dr. Esmaili is a data scientist at the DHCRC and previously CMCRC. She is working with several industry partners such as Transport Accident Commission (TAC), Insurance Australia Group (IAG), and Healthcare Management Systems (HMS). She is also an affiliated research associate at the Healthcare Systems Engineering Institute (HSyE) of Northeastern University in Boston and an associate of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at UTS. Previously, she was a postdoctoral research associate at Northeastern University and a research associate with the Global Big Data Technologies Centre, UTS. Nazanin holds a PhD from University of Pittsburgh and an MBA and BS.c. from Sharif University of Technology. Her main research expertise and interests are in the areas of data analytics, mathematical modelling and machine learning with main application to healthcare.


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