Background. Variability in outpatient specialty clinic schedules contributes to numerous adverse effects including chaotic clinic settings, provider burnout, increased patient waiting times, and inefficient use of resources. This research measures the benefit of balancing provider schedules in an outpatient specialty clinic. Design. We developed a constrained optimization model to minimize the variability in provider schedules in an outpatient specialty clinic. Schedule variability was defined as the variance in the number of providers scheduled for clinic during each hour the clinic is open. We compared the variance in the number of providers scheduled per hour resulting from the constrained optimization schedule with the actual schedule for three reference scenarios used in practice at M Health Fairview’s Clinics and Surgery Center as a case study. Results. Compared to the actual schedules, use of constrained optimization modeling reduced the variance in the number of providers scheduled per hour by 92% (1.70–0.14), 88% (1.98–0.24), and 94% (1.98–0.12). When compared with the reference scenarios, the total, and per provider, assigned clinic hours remained the same. Use of constrained optimization modeling also reduced the maximum number of providers scheduled during each of the actual schedules for each of the reference scenarios. The constrained optimization schedules utilized 100% of the available clinic time compared to the reference scenario schedules where providers were scheduled during 87%, 92%, and 82% of the open clinic time, respectively. Limitations. The scheduling model’s use requires a centralized provider scheduling process in the clinic. Conclusions. Constrained optimization can help balance provider schedules in outpatient specialty clinics, thereby reducing the risk of negative effects associated with highly variable clinic settings.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.
- clinic utilization
- provider schedules
- specialty clinics