An alternative outpatient scheduling system: Improving the outpatient experience

Yu Li Huang, Walton M. Hancock, Gary D. Herrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patient wait time has long been a recognized problem in modern outpatient health care delivery systems. Despite all the efforts to develop appointment rules and solutions, the problem of long patient waits persists. Regardless of the reasons for this problem, the fact remains that there are few implemented models for effective scheduling that consider patient wait times as well as physician idle time and are generalized sufficiently to accommodate a variety of outpatient clinic settings. This paper presents a solution of designing appointment slots for scheduling appointments in outpatient facilities that both patient wait time and physician idle time meet the declared scheduling policies without overbooking and double-booking. Furthermore, this paper provides the implementation results from three case studies to support the approach. The results confirm that the system can effectively reduce patient wait time as much as 56% without significantly increasing physician idle time per patient and still allow physician to see and schedule exactly same number of patients per clinic session. Consequently, this research improves the outpatient experience for both patients and the medical professions, changes the perception of long waits in a physician's office and ultimately enhances the quality of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-111
Number of pages15
JournalIIE Transactions on Healthcare Systems Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Outpatient scheduling
  • patient flow
  • patient wait time
  • physician idle time
  • process improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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