Towards a computational tool to facilitate the scheduling of elective surgeries in a healthcare institution
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This paper describes the process followed for designing a computational tool to improve the scheduling of surgeries in a regional healthcare institution where the availability of surgeons and medical staff is limited and heavily constrained. The goal is to analyze the characteristics of the system so as to design the structure of the master surgical schedule and select and appropriate set of rules aiming at reducing the waiting time for elective and ambulatory procedures and increasing the use of the rooms. In first place, the characteristics of the demand are studied by collecting and analyzing the information recorded during a two-year time lapse. Then, this information is used as an input to imitate the characteristics of the process through a discrete event system simulation model which can be used to analyze the performance of the system when different strategies are adopted. In particular, easy-to-use rules of thumb, adapted to the simplicity of the studied system are analyzed. For example, offline and online scheduling strategies and combination of these with operatory blocks (defined as a time dedicated exclusively to a given specialty) are studied. Then, upon the basis of the results obtained, a user-friendly computer interface is designed such that the process, that was predominantly carried out by hand, can be automated while improving systems performance and reducing the effort devoted by the personnel in charge.