Christchurch software firm Emendo has won deals together worth between $5 million and $10m over three years, providing its CapPlan capacity planning software to hospitals in South and Western Australia. Emendo co-founder Nick Burns says the contracts are its biggest to date, although it is chasing an even larger contract in Canada. CapPlan is designed to help hospitals forecast how busy they will be and where bottlenecks may occur, helping them roster staff and allocate beds. Data from major patient management systems can be automatically fed into the system, which analyses past trends and can adjust forecasts to take into account variables such as weather forecasts. "We have some clever algorithms that run over the data," Mr Burns says. Some modules are designed to forecast workloads as far as 18 months ahead to help with budgeting, while others are designed to look just a few hours ahead. "The core benefits are around aligning staffing to patient workloads," Mr Burns says. "Typically, hospitals have had to `flat roster' and what we allow them to do is manage for troughs and peaks." Royal Adelaide Hospital and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth have both been using CapPlan since 2007. In the latest deal, it will be adopted by another nine hospitals in the two states. Mr Burns denies there is a risk that capacity planning could lead to fully occupied staff with no downtime to catch up with non-time-sensitive tasks. "I would argue this is a fairer way, because it is not only about the troughs, it is about accounting for when it may go the other way. A significant amount of effort goes into understanding when peaks occur. "Rather than have the same number of people who have to work harder, it can quantify what extra resources may be required. The idea is to smooth workloads." Canterbury District Health Board business development manager Richard Hamilton last year estimated CapPlan had saved Christchurch Hospital more than $2m over four years during Christmas periods alone. It had also cut the average length of patients' stays by half a day, by making it more aware of what was going on in the hospital. Emendo employs just under 40 staff and is hiring another five. It is in the early stages of establishing an office in the United States, with the help of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. "This year is about market research and getting our market entry right, but that is in our plan," Mr Burns says. "Like all the markets we are in, there is some emerging competition, but we believe from our research to date there is a massive gap."