Queensland Health is celebrating the achievements of women this week, including a researcher behind the software tool that is cutting emergency department waiting times and saving healthcare dollars.

Female researchers in the state are making new discoveries, creating new technologies and improving patient care, and to mark Queensland Women’s Week the government has acknowledged and thanked them in a statement, singling out Professor Julia Crilly for her work to develop the Emergency Department Patient Admission Prediction Tool.

Developed in a collaboration between Gold Coast Health, Griffith University and the CSIRO’s Australian eHealth Research Centre, ED PAPT allows hospitals to forecast how many patients will arrive seeking emergency care at any given time, their medical urgency and how many will need to be admitted to hospital.

“The tool can easily and accurately predict the number and type of presentations, and hospital admissions that will be made today, tomorrow, next week, next month or even next year,” Crilly said.

The ability to predict how many critically injured patients or those with broken bones will arrive at an emergency department provides healthcare providers with the knowledge they need to plan.

“I guess it came about from an understanding of people working on the floor who are working in the hospitals that we can do things better in regards to this.”

Crilly said the research that led to the creation of ED PAPT included interviews with clinicians, bed managers and hospital decision-makers to discern what they wanted in the tool. Historic admissions data was also analysed to develop the predictive algorithm.

Initially implemented in two Queensland hospitals, it’s since been rolled out in 30.

“It has helped us and people who need to use the tool to become more proactive in their decision-making rather than reactive.” she said.

It provides them with the data they need to plan for the number of in-patient beds required, nursing staff to roster on or surgeries to book with 90 per cent accuracy.

For Crilly, who is in a joint appointment between Gold Coast Health and Griffith University, her skills as a clinician and researcher combine to provide inspiration and insights.

“I love working in emergency departments. It’s a very busy, hectic place to work but it’s a place where you have an opportunity to integrate with a lot of people who present. Often it can be the worst day of their lives and within a short amount of time you’ve got the ability to understand and help improve a time that would otherwise be really hard for them,” she said.

“Being able to do research is quite important because I think you can make a difference to some extent through research as well as through clinical practice and if we can use the evidence to help improve practice that’s undoubtedly got to be a good thing.”

ED PAPT is now being adapted to predict diseases such as influenza and hospital admissions due to chronic illnesses. The CSIRO has estimated that a national roll-out could deliver savings of $23 million from improved patient outcomes, fewer elective surgery cancellations and better bed use.

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