Appointment scheduling in the healthcare industry, a challenge and an opportunity

Diwakar Gupta and Brian Denton shed some light on the problem in and opportunities of scheduling in the healthcare sector.

“Appointment scheduling systems are used by primary and specialty care clinics to manage access to service providers, as well as by hospitals to schedule elective surgeries. Many factors affect the performance of appointment systems including arrival and service time variability, patient and provider preferences, available information technology and the experience level of the scheduling staff.

In addition, a critical bottleneck lies in the application of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IE/OR) techniques. The most common types of health care delivery systems are described in this article with particular attention on the factors that make appointment scheduling challenging. For each environment relevant decisions ranging from a set of rules that guide schedulers to real-time responses to deviations from plans are described. A road map of the state of the art in the design of appointment management systems is provided and future opportunities for novel applications of IE/OR models are identified.”

The authors position is, that “existing models in the manufacturing, transportation and logistics areas cannot be easily “tweaked” to fit the health care environment, and that this, in part, accounts for the lack of adoption of these models in the health care setting. In fact, new models are needed to address health-care-specific issues, such as the soft nature of capacity, the modeling of patient and provider preferences, the stochastic and dynamic nature of multi-priority demand and the need to recover from deviations. Moreover, different modes of organizing health services delivery, as well as technology-led changes in practice norms, provide new opportunities in the area of health services network design.”

Read the full paper here.

healthcare scheduling









photo-materials: thanks to / Dieter Schütz / Jetti Kuhlemann / Ery Sipel