The healthcare industry can be difficult to navigate. There are myriad issues to address: technology, insurance, costs, preventable medical errors and data privacy, to name a few. Not to mention the fact that all the stakeholders—such as patients, providers and payers—have different needs.
One unique challenge of the field revolves around planning and scheduling. How can healthcare systems maximize scheduling efficiency to improve their care coordination efforts? New research from Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems in the Eller College of Management, Seokjun Youn examines this question.
Titled Planning and Scheduling in Healthcare for Better Care Coordination: Current Understanding, Trending Topics, and Future Opportunities, the paper is forthcoming in Production and Operations Management and is co-authored by H. Neil Geismar at Texas A&M University and Michael Pinedo at New York University.
The paper contains a review of research on scheduling and capacity management published in prestigious journals over the past 30 years. While this may seem like a daunting task, Youn and his co-authors separated the scheduling literature into multiple topics: appointment scheduling, surgery and workforce scheduling, and recurring and integrated scheduling. Furthermore, they divided their review of capacity management research into three problem contexts: hospital units, outpatient clinics and broader healthcare networks.
According to Youn, the area of broader healthcare networks has the most room for improvement. In essence, it’s key for health systems to expand their scope and team up with other types of organizations.
“A major takeaway is that successful businesses should look for opportunities to collaborate with partners that have complementary talents to resolve issues early in the strategic planning process,” says Youn.
After examining past research, the paper concludes with an overview of seven emerging trends in healthcare: collaborative ecosystem and cooperative competition strategy, expanded reach of virtual care, applications of artificial intelligence in healthcare, patient engagement and personalized care, shifting to value-based care, working toward health equity and aging populations.
While each of these areas presents an opportunity for future research, Youn highlighted virtual care.
“Pre-pandemic, less than two percent of outpatient behavioral health and medical claims were for virtual visits,” he says. “In 2021, they made up nearly 25 percent.”
Telehealth can help employers and employees save money while keeping patients healthy, Youn adds.
But the key takeaway from the paper is the continued need for researchers to study the complexity of healthcare planning and scheduling.
“In sum, research on planning and scheduling in healthcare is no longer simply an opportunity for individual researchers using a single method or focusing on a small application, rather, it is a comprehensive area that should be pursued by multidisciplinary perspectives to deliver coherent solutions that incorporate the complex contemporary issues harmoniously,” Youn says.