Outpatient Appointment Scheduling: The Disconnect Between Research and Practice


Our research is motivated by the observation that appointment scheduling in outpatient settings has seen an increasing and extraordinary level of interest from the academic community, while their findings have not attracted much interest from the practitioner community. We explore this phenomenon through a series simulation experiments designed to assess the potential of operational, revenue-related, and patient-related benefits that may be realized through improved scheduling practices. We design a simulated operational environment, i.e. patient profiles, consultation time characteristics, and no-show behaviour based on actaul data reported by clinics and hospitals nationwide in the US. Then, wemeasure the expected outcomes in terms of provider productivity and patient waiting times by applying various appointment scheduling templates, used in actual practices and those advocated by academic research findings. Our results show that potential benefits fail to make a strong enough business case for adopting complex scheduling systems. IT integration difficulties, centralized processes and staff buy-in exacerbate misgivings for adoption.We conclude that efforts directed towards reducing missed appointments by patients, and improved accuracy in estimating and predicting providers’ consulation times have a much higher potential for improving clinic operations and patient satisfaction, by adopting user-friendly and simple-to-implement scheduling rules already used by practitioners.

Author(s): Emre Veral

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