Digital Transformation of Emergency Medicine: How commercial mathematics is helping hospitals adapt to COVID challenges

As travel restrictions began to ease across Australia at the start of 2022, hospitals experienced an increased strain on resources, brought about by a peak in COVID cases.

Planning to expand their emergency department (ED) to compensate for lost space from accommodating COVID query patients, one of SEQ’s largest public hospitals engaged the services of Biarri to ensure they were achieving optimal utilisation of their facilities.

Though the new building was originally designed for the treatment of minor injuries, the impact of COVID, as well as historically high levels of demand on the ED prompted a reconsideration of the design and intended usage for the expansion. 

The hospital needed to understand how they should change the existing ED whilst utilising the beds and resources of this new physical area, to best improve the flow of patients, reduce their waiting times, and treat them as efficiently as possible while continuing to provide excellent patient outcomes.

Over the 4 months in 2021, the average time a patient spent waiting for a ward bed exceeding the expected time of 75 minutes by 25%. 

Within a restricted time frame, Biarri was able to deliver insights based on a custom-built simulation model, that showed the department how best to optimise throughput, maximise their use of space, and minimise the overall time patients spent in the ED. 

Simulation Modelling

You have a problem. You’ve come up with some possible solutions that work in principle, but you want to be certain of their effectiveness prior to implementation. Often, it’s impractical to test them in reality, as they’re either too expensive, too time consuming, or there would simply be too much interference with the normal operation of your business. You may need a simulation

Simulation is a time and cost effective way of testing ideas and theories across a huge number of disciplines, from wind tunnel testing on scale models in the aerospace industry, to predicting animal behaviour in large groups, or recreating the formation of our Milky Way galaxy. 

Because they are easily configured to take advantage of randomness, running a simulation multiple times can produce a wide spectrum of possible outcomes, which sometimes makes them a better choice to model reality than more traditional techniques. 

Using this method of exploring the problem space, a business can develop their operational plans based on a typical or likely day (or month), while also gaining visibility of, and preparing for the worst-case scenarios. 

By representing the allocation and flow of resources as a series of discrete events, simulations can serve as a digital testing ground for a business, and provide the opportunity for fine tuning and optimisation of business processes. 

Hospital Emergency Department – A Case Study

A simulation algorithm was developed for the ED that allowed the identification of bottlenecks in the department, and could be used to explore the impact of reducing wait times, reallocating beds to different types of patients, and expanding the areas reserved for COVID patients. 

The simulation treated patients as individual agents who were tracked from arrival, through to triage, into a particular area in the ED, where they could then either leave after being examined, or be admitted to the ward. 

The algorithm made use of 4 months of historic data regarding the expected frequency of patient arrivals, expected time in triage for each patient type, and processing treatment times by ED area. Expected flows between the areas of the ED, for example the percentage of acute patients admitted to ward were also estimated. 

The outcomes of the simulations were measured in terms of a NEAT score. 

“The National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) stipulates that a predetermined proportion of patients should be admitted, discharged or transferred from Australian emergency departments (EDs) within 4 hours of presentation”

For example, it was found that reducing the time that patients wait for a ward bed could significantly improve flow in the ED. If patients only waited 45-60 minutes for a ward bed, compared to the current average, the NEAT for Resuscitation patients could increase around 25%.

By tweaking the parameters of the simulation, different scenarios could be investigated. In one such scenario, it was found that if the COVID area was not expanded, even 40 additional patients per day would lead to significant queuing, as the current allocation of 10 beds would be insufficient to handle the demand. 

COVID queue length (10 beds)

Length of queue for beds over a two day period for COVID patients in the situation where the COVID area has not been expanded. The green curve represents the “average” (or 50th percentile), the yellow a worst case scenario (95th percentile) and the blue a best case scenario (5th percentile).  

COVID bed utilisation (10 beds)

The utilisation of beds in the situation where the COVID area has not been expanded. Within a few hours there is no longer any capacity for additional COVID patients. 


However, expanding the COVID area into the acute and clinical decision units (adding 12 beds) meant the ED could handle an increase of roughly 70 COVID query patients per day.

COVID bed utilisation (22 beds)


The utilisation of beds once an additional 12 beds have been added, in the case of 70 additional COVID query patients. If the COVID pod was expanded into the Clinical Decision Unit area, this amount of space should be enough to meet the anticipated capacity.

Simulation in Mining and Construction

Biarri has used simulation modelling in a variety of industries, such as modelling the movement of roof supports in longwall mining applications to significantly reduce the time taken for their recovery, transport, and installation. Another application for simulation is traffic and the movement of goods through a network. In the animation below, trucks with a random arrival time move through an underground parking structure to deliver pallets to a goods lift, which might have a randomised waiting time. The bottleneck in the structure acts like a traffic light system to control the flow of trucks through the structure. 


Would you like to know more? 

Speak to an expert today and discover how your business can begin leveraging the power of commercial mathematics and simulation today. 

Get in touch

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Biarri Workforce New Feature Release: July Edition

With the end of the Financial year coming to close, and as Businesses continue to adjust to our new normal, the team behind Biarri Workforce continue our commitment to improve and simplify workforce rostering and planning. With our users in mind, our development team has updated and created additional functionality to equip you the user with the necessary tools to improve the way you:

  • View KPI’s and create reporting for exporting;
  • Manage your employees work schedules across multiple rosters 
  • Improve visibility of rosters when planning with simplified user interface functionality and
  • The way employers manage employees fatigue and qualification compliance 

Read on to see how Biarri Workforce continues to simplify and prepare your workforce scheduler to create optimised workforce rosters and work schedules. 

  1. Roster Export Additional Employee Columns  

Reduce confusion and assure your employees with the option to increase your employees visibility with additional ‘Employee Fields’. When downloading or exporting your roster, you have the choice to include or exclude the following employee details from your roster. Better manage your employees’ details with the new employee columns. 

2. Include shifts from non-primary roster

Better manage individual employee rosters by being able to include shifts from non-primary rosters. When downloading rosters, include or exclude shifts from non-primary rosters with Biarri Workforce’s new toggle option. Perfect for employees who work across multiple departments and perform multiple functions, keep track and improve the way you plan and organise their roster.


3. Customisable report titles

Create clearer reports and configure ‘titles’ and ‘subtitles’ before downloading your roster. With the ‘Suggested Titles’ selector – correctly title and label your rosters based on intelligent suggestions.



4. Roster KPI’s – Paid hours/ total days sub totals 

Make more informed decisions with Biarri Workforce’s improved ‘RosterKPI’s’. With the enhanced KPI functionality, users will have the option to view the sub-total paid working hours and total days. Helpful and useful when dealing and managing fatigue, increase your workforce planners and users visibility over working hours, ensuring employee hours do not exceed CBA regulations.

5. Powerful roster view filters

Improve your user experience with the new Biarri Workforce filter options. By clicking on the following ‘filter’ icon dropdown in the Rostering’ tab, your user will now be able to organise and switch views by selecting the necessary filters, creating a more clearer and purposeful roster.

6. Fatigue and Qualification Compliance Reporting 

Found in the ‘Admin’ tab, users will now be able to export fatigue and qualification reports under the ‘Roster Validation’ sub header.
Make compliance and safety a priority by ensuring you have the correct employee with the correct qualification, to perform the necessary tasks. With Roster Validation’ reporting, your Workforce Planners and users will be able to stay up to date with employees who do not satisfy the requirements to perform specific tasks and roles. From alcohol tests to site compliance, roster validation will highlight when employees are in breach of rule specifications outlined.

If you want to know more about any of the features mentioned above, we invite you to leave your contact details in the contact form below and one of our team members will get in touch with you. Or if you want to know more about Biarri Workforce follow this link.

Workforce Contact Form

Common challenges facing your workforce planner

Common Challenges Facing Your Workforce Planner

Roster Managers and Workforce Planners face the difficult task of planning and formulating rosters which are efficient but also address changing shifts and team member preferences and availability.

Assigning shifts can be a time consuming task that requires a lot of thought and consideration to achieve an optimised and efficient roster. Rosterers must assign the correct shift by skill and qualification all while considering staff preferences and availability, team dynamics, training requirements and enterprise agreement rules. In addition, the roster needs to deliver high overall utilisation and cost efficiency. A poor roster can result in dissatisfied employees and have a negative impact on the organisation’s bottom line. 

Here are a few common challenges that Roster Managers and Workforce Planners face when rostering and also some ideas on how these challenges can be overcome.

Managing Staff Preferences 

As a Roster Manager it can be difficult to capture and keep track of changes to employees preferences and availability. Simply rolling forward a prior period roster will not ensure that new requests can be met and worse may mean any issues or frustrations with previous rosters are repeated.  

Team members are one of the most important aspects of any organisation. When individuals can see their preferences and availability are being considered in the rosters produced it can greatly improve staff retention, job satisfaction and performance

In addition, rosters which repeatedly ignore staff preferences can lead to ongoing shift swapping and roster changes as employees find ways to structure their work to better meet their needs.  

Are your team members making the same shift swaps month after month to bend the roster to accommodate their preferences?

Shift work allows for employee flexibility, given there is often a range of shifts available. Flexibly considering employee preferences when rostering can enable parents to attend their children’s upcoming events, allow for staff members’ special occasions and remove the need for complex chains of shift swaps by employees once the roster is published.

Capturing staff preferences is the first step in solving this problem, followed by smart rostering to take account of many often competing preferences. This can be very challenging to get right, especially when roster teams are often equipped with nothing more than personal experience and excel roster spreadsheets

Using Biarri Workforce, managers and rosterers have the ability to capture all types of staff preferences and availability and take them into account when auto-generating rosters.  

Biarri Workforce has an open and flexible rules and preference interface which allows the rosterer to define preferences and availability in many ways. 

  • The structure of our rules interface means every type of roster preference a team member might have can be captured. Some examples of this include:
  • attaching preferences to individuals, groups or across the whole roster (e.g. David prefers nights but Steve, Damian and Lilibeth prefer to work weekends, whereas everyone on the roster must comply with the legislated fatigue thresholds);
  • making a rule for a once only event in that roster period, for a defined period of time or ongoing if it is recurring in nature (e.g. can I have next Thursday afternoon off to take my kids to the Shrek Matinee, or I would like every Monday morning off to play golf with my mates);
  • defining the rule as a hard constraint (e.g. must occur) or a soft constraint (would be good if it could occur) and enabling different weightings to be set on soft constraints;
  • creating rules to support team environments (e.g to prefer a team to be rostered together and to work together on a series of consecutive shifts); 
  • by reference to other team members (e.g. prefers to work with or not to work with other individuals – this can accommodate spouses or partners who work on the same roster to ensure they will always have someone at home with kids, or alternatively both can have does off together)

The preferences, availability and other rules defined in the rules interface are then considered when Biarri Workforce auto-generates the roster.   

Last Minute Shift Swapping 

Managing and dealing with last minute shift swaps by team members can be difficult to ensure that skills, fatigue and qualification requirements are met and to ensure the changes are recorded and updated to the master roster for payroll purposes.

Life happens, events outside of our control pop up and staff will need to miss work. The next challenge is finding a suitable replacement who is available, has the necessary skill set but also a replacement who will not breach any fatigue, EBA and workplace rules.

The lines of communication can be frantic, back and forth with text messages, emails and calls searching for a replacement. Finding someone to cover the gap is often hard enough.  But wouldn’t it be great if the process was automated to not only make finding a replacement easy, but also this is seamlessly reviewed and approved and automatically updated to the master roster.  In addition, the substitute should be equivalent or lower cost and not create issues (e.g. fatigue thresholds) later in the roster period.

Biarri Workforce has an in-built shift swap feature that assists managers and employees to best manage shift swaps. Available through the Biarri Workforce Mobile App, employees can easily Swap Shifts or Offer Shifts to other available employees and management can see this activity and approve a swap before it is finalised – keeping visibility and control over the execution of the roster.


Speak with a consultant today and remove the panic of finding a suitable replacement with the right skills and availability, with the Biarri Workforce shift swap features. Equip your Workforce Planner and Roster Manager with Biarri Workforce. Whether you are currently manually rostering or looking for a more accommodating solution, the team behind Biarri Workforce are dedicated to making Biarri Workforce work for you.

Workforce Contact Form