Journal of the Operational Research Society

, Volume 61, Issue 11, pp 1572–1581 | Cite as

An evaluation of the applicability of system dynamics to patient flow modelling

  • S Vanderby
  • M W Carter
Case-oriented Paper


The objective of this research is to determine whether Systems Dynamics (SD) is a beneficial method for modelling hospital patient flow from a strategic planning perspective. While discrete event simulation has frequently been used as a tool for analysing and improving patient flow in health care settings, the desire to assess and understand patient flow and resource demand from a more strategic, and therefore aggregate, perspective led to the use of SD. To evaluate the suitability of such an approach, a model was developed in collaboration with the General Campus at The Ottawa Hospital with particular attention paid to the delays experienced by patients in the emergency department. The modelling techniques used, model validation and scenarios tested with the model are discussed, accompanied by comments regarding the appropriateness of SD for such a model.


health service hospitals simulation strategic planning system dynamics 



This work would not have been possible without the assistance of many people, at The Ottawa Hospital, but, in particular, we thank Cal Martell, Paula Doering and Wendy Fortier. We also thank Dr. Daniel Frances, Dr. Michael Schull and Dr. Dionne Aleman for their guidance and advice. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the Ontario Change Foundation for the funding they provided.


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Copyright information

© Operational Research Society 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • S Vanderby
    • 1
  • M W Carter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical and Industrial EngineeringUniversity of TorontoCanada

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