Simul8 Meets...

Can digital twins solve the NHS backlog?

Exclusive Insights from Dr. John Boulton

Welcome to another insightful edition of “Simul8 Meets…” This week, we delve into the transformative potential of digital twins in healthcare.

Our special guest is Dr. John Boulton, National Director of Quality Improvement and Patient Safety in NHS Wales, who joins our Director of Services and Strategic Partnerships, Thomas Stephenson.

“Simul8 Meets” is our initiative to engage with thought leaders across diverse sectors, showcasing the impactful ways simulation technology shapes decision-making and drives innovation. Our discussions with these experts not only shed light on best practices but also demonstrate how simulation fosters positive change in society.

Dr. Boulton, with his extensive experience in healthcare improvement and as a long term user of Simul8, offers a unique perspective on using digital twins to address challenges within the NHS. Join us as we explore these insights and more in this compelling episode.

Using Simulation to tackle backlogs

Tom Stephenson: “I guess you’ll be as aware as I am, there’s probably not a day goes by where we don’t see at least one story in the media about growing backlogs for NHS appointments. Would you see Simul8 having a role in tackling this?”

Dr. John Boulton: “I think this is where I used simulation the first time. When I was working in Sheffield a really good colleague of mine had just started using simulation. I was getting quite frustrated with some of my own clinical work as I had very big queues in my outpatient clinic and when I saw the simulation it just really sort of blew my mind.

Simulation helped me understand the problem and then develop the solution…I had huge backlogs in my clinic and just had no understanding of what was causing them. For me, being able to build a model that I could understand the referral rates coming in, how often I was seeing people, how many non-attendances, etcetera, and how all of that fit together to produce the output, I think it has huge potential to help people understand what the system is doing and how the system behaves, the dynamics that cause that behaviour.”

The potential of digital twins in tackling the NHS backlog

Tom: “We’ve been seeing a lot of growth in digital twins recently, where people are using simulations for recurring use, hooked up to a live database, and able to render the simulation in real-time, then pause it and project forward to make different decisions. I’m just wondering if that’s anything you’ve seen or thought about. I know a lot of hospitals are getting connected to real-time patient tracking”

Dr. Boulton: “We can predict a lot of flow challenges and harm events from people as soon as they appear in the front door. The ability to, let’s say, have a model of an ED that is well-validated and putting in data in real-time, we could give a heads up to the rest of the hospital and potentially the wider system. We’ve had a bad day in the ED, that in 24 hours we’re going to have a difficult challenge in the rest of the hospital and potentially wider.”

Simulation steering the course of healthcare

This episode with Dr. Boulton opens up a discussion on how digital twins and advanced simulation techniques can be pivotal in solving complex healthcare challenges from the NHS backlog to organizing blood donations for the world cup. You can watch John’s full interview with all his insights right here.

Would you like to share your thoughts or experiences with simulation in healthcare? We’re eager to hear how you think simulation can shape the future of this critical field get in touch!

About the author



For over 20 years we've been working with organizations around the world to transform processes. Our intuitive software is relied on to help make million dollar decisions. From Ford to NASA, Geisinger to Boston Scientific, SIMUL8 Corporation's powerful software is being used to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve processes.