MAR 07, 2021 12:27 AM PST

Engineers Improve Patient Scheduling

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

The first known study to explore optimal outpatient exam scheduling given the flexibility of inpatient exams has resulted in shorter wait times for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) patients at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Mass.

Waiting at the doctor’s office longer than needed has implications on work productivity and patient health. To address this issue, engineers at Dartmouth Engineering and Philips researched ways to identify sources of delay at the doctors office—in their case they examined scheduling for patients waiting for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure. The study, "Stochastic programming for outpatient scheduling with flexible inpatient exam accommodation”, examined patients Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Mass.

"Excellence in service and positive patient experiences are a primary focus for the hospital. We continuously monitor various aspects of patient experiences and one key indicator is patient wait times," said Christoph Wald, chair of the department of radiology at Lahey Hospital and professor of radiology at Tufts University Medical School. "With a goal of wanting to improve patient wait times, we worked with data science researchers at Philips and Dartmouth to help identify levers for improvement that might be achieved without impeding access."

This was the first study to explore optimal outpatient exam scheduling.

"Mathematical models and algorithms are crucial to improve the efficiency of healthcare systems, especially in the current crisis we are going through. By analyzing the patient data, we found that delays were prominent because the schedule was not optimal," said first author Yifei Sun, a Dartmouth Engineering PhD candidate. "This research uses optimization and simulation tools to help the MRI centers of Lahey Hospital better plan their schedule to reduce overall cost, which includes patient waiting time."

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
BS/MS
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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