Simulating the behavior of patients who leave a public hospital emergency department without being seen by a physician: a cellular automaton and agent-based framework
The objective of this study was to develop an agent based modeling (ABM) framework to simulate the behavior of patients who leave a public hospital emergency department (ED) without being seen (LWBS). In doing so, the study complements computer modeling and cellular automata (CA) techniques to simulate the behavior of patients in an ED. After verifying and validating the model by comparing it with data from a real case study, the significance of four preventive policies including increasing number of triage nurses, fast-track treatment, increasing the waiting room capacity and reducing treatment time were investigated by utilizing ordinary least squares regression. After applying the preventing policies in ED, an average of 42.14% reduction in the number of patients who leave without being seen and 6.05% reduction in the average length of stay (LOS) of patients was reported. This study is the first to apply CA in an ED simulation. Comparing the average LOS before and after applying CA with actual times from emergency department information system showed an 11% improvement. The simulation results indicated that the most effective approach to reduce the rate of LWBS is applying fast-track treatment. The ABM approach represents a flexible tool that can be constructed to reflect any given environment. It is also a support system for decision-makers to assess the relative impact of control strategies.