Systematic review of the use of computer simulation modeling of patient flow in surgical care

J Med Syst. 2011 Feb;35(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s10916-009-9336-z. Epub 2009 Jul 7.


Computer simulation has been employed to evaluate proposed changes in the delivery of health care. However, little is known about the utility of simulation approaches for analysis of changes in the delivery of surgical care. We searched eight bibliographic databases for this comprehensive review of the literature published over the past five decades, and found 34 publications that reported on simulation models for the flow of surgical patients. The majority of these publications presented a description of the simulation approach: 91% outlined the underlying assumptions for modeling, 88% presented the system requirements, and 91% described the input and output data. However, only half of the publications reported that models were constructed to address the needs of policy-makers, and only 26% reported some involvement of health system managers and policy-makers in the simulation study. In addition, we found a wide variation in the presentation of assumptions, system requirements, input and output data, and results of simulation-based policy analysis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Models, Organizational*
  • Organizational Policy
  • Patient Care
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Process Assessment, Health Care* / methods
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Workflow*
  • Workload