Appointment scheduling in health care: Challenges and opportunities

Diwakar Gupta, Brian Denton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

555 Scopus citations


Appointment scheduling systems are used by primary and specialty care clinics to manage access to service providers, as well as by hospitals to schedule elective surgeries. Many factors affect the performance of appointment systems including arrival and service time variability, patient and provider preferences, available information technology and the experience level of the scheduling staff. In addition, a critical bottleneck lies in the application of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IE/OR) techniques. The most common types of health care delivery systems are described in this article with particular attention on the factors that make appointment scheduling challenging. For each environment relevant decisions ranging from a set of rules that guide schedulers to real-time responses to deviations from plans are described. A road map of the state of the art in the design of appointment management systems is provided and future opportunities for novel applications of IE/OR models are identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)800-819
Number of pages20
JournalIIE Transactions (Institute of Industrial Engineers)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge Mr. John Osborn of the Systems & Procedures department at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. The authors are also grateful to two anonymous referees and the Editor-in-Chief, Professor Candace Yano, for their help in improving the manuscript. Diwakar Gupta’s effort on this project was supported in part by grant CMMI-0620328 from the National Science Foundation. Brian Denton’s effort was supported in part by grant CMMI-0620573 from the National Science Foundation.


  • Access rules
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Health care operations management

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