Title: A simulation model for outpatient appointment scheduling with patient unpunctuality

Authors: Li Luo; Ying Zhou; Bernard T. Han; Yingkang Shi; Qiyun Song; Xiaoli He; Zhaoxia Guo

Addresses: Business School, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China ' Business School, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China ' Haworth College of Business, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, USA ' Outpatient Department of West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China ' Business School, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China ' Outpatient Department of West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China ' Business School, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China

Abstract: This paper is to investigate the appointment system of an outpatient department in a large hospital in China in order to reduce its long patient waiting time. Through a sensitivity analysis using actual data, the study shows that patient unpunctuality and doctor consultation time have significant impacts on the patient waiting time. To facilitate the existing practice without making strong assumptions, a simulation model is developed to identify proper appointment rules for appointment scheduling with severe patient unpunctuality. In specific, four outpatient environments, characterised by a preset appointment time interval with variable doctor consultation times, were simulated and 100 scenarios were run for each environment to identify a proper appointment rule that has the least patient average waiting time (PAWT). Results indicate that PAWT is consistently shorter for environments when patients are punctual and, moreover, is barely affected by the length of appointment time interval. However, for environments with patient unpunctuality, a proper appointment rule could potentially reduce PAWT up to 34% (i.e., reducing the appointment time interval from 1.0 hour to 0.5 hour). The developed simulation model may serve as an efficient tool to enhance outpatient appointment scheduling with patient unpunctuality. Possible extensions to the presented model are also discussed.

Keywords: simulation; outpatient appointments; unpunctuality; patient waiting times; modelling; appointment scheduling; patient punctuality; outpatients; hospitals; healthcare services; China.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSPM.2016.078530

International Journal of Simulation and Process Modelling, 2016 Vol.11 No.3/4, pp.281 - 291

Available online: 19 Aug 2016 *

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