Improving outpatient clinic efficiency using computer simulation

J E Clague, P G Reed, J Barlow, R Rada, M Clarke, R H Edwards
International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance Incorporating Leadership in Health Services 1997, 10 (4-5): 197-201
To assess and plan alterations in outpatient clinic structure, produces a computer simulation of an outpatient clinic based on detailed time and role measurements from the authors' clinic. The stimulation which used an object-oriented design method is able to indicate the impact of changes in clinic structure using patient and doctor waiting times in clinic as endpoint measures. The effects of changes in clinic size, consultation time, patient mix, appointment scheduling and non-attendance were examined. We found that patient waiting time could be shortened considerably by using an optimizing appointment scheduler to determine appointment intervals. Clinic mix influences patient waiting time, which was shorter with a 1 in 4 ratio of new to follow-up patients. In mixed clinics, new patients appointments are optimally spread throughout the clinic to reduce patient waiting time. In all new or all follow-up clinics, waiting time is improved if the appointment interval reflects the consultation time. Computer modelling can help in optimizing clinic management so improving the delivery of care in outpatient services.

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