The Development of Patient Scheduling Groups for an Effective Appointment System
14 August 2015
accepted: 29 January 2015
16 December 2017 (online)
Patient access to care and long wait times has been identified as major problems in outpatient delivery systems. These aspects impact medical staff productivity, service quality, clinic efficiency, and health-care cost.
This study proposed to redesign existing patient types into scheduling groups so that the total cost of clinic flow and scheduling flexibility was minimized. The optimal scheduling group aimed to improve clinic efficiency and accessibility.
The proposed approach used the simulation optimization technique and was demonstrated in a Primary Care physician clinic. Patient type included, emergency/urgent care (ER/UC), follow-up (FU), new patient (NP), office visit (OV), physical exam (PE), and well child care (WCC). One scheduling group was designed for this physician. The approach steps were to collect physician treatment time data for each patient type, form the possible scheduling groups, simulate daily clinic flow and patient appointment requests, calculate costs of clinic flow as well as appointment flexibility, and find the scheduling group that minimized the total cost.
The cost of clinic flow was minimized at the scheduling group of four, an 8.3% reduction from the group of one. The four groups were: 1. WCC, 2. OV, 3. FU and ER/UC, and 4. PE and NP. The cost of flexibility was always minimized at the group of one. The total cost was minimized at the group of two. WCC was considered separate and the others were grouped together. The total cost reduction was 1.3% from the group of one.
This study provided an alternative method of redesigning patient scheduling groups to address the impact on both clinic flow and appointment accessibility. Balance between them ensured the feasibility to the recognized issues of patient service and access to care. The robustness of the proposed method on the changes of clinic conditions was also discussed.
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