Mark Isken - Summer 2008 Applied R&D Projects

Optimization and Simulation Models for Inpatient Obstetrics

This project, funded by a small healthcare consulting firm, involved the development of optimization and simulation models to address both patient scheduling and capacity planning in inpatient hospital obstetrical units. The project was motivated by recent changes in clinical practice leading to a much larger percentage of births being the result of scheduled cesarean sections or scheduled inductions. Day of week bias in scheduling such procedures can add significant variability to patient census in the downstream postpartum unit. This variation makes capacity planning and staffing, much more difficult. The models developed as part of this project will help to quantify the extent of the additional occupancy variability as well as to suggest better patient scheduling policies. Our intent is to release these models as free and open source projects in an attempt to allow managers and other researchers to explore these phenomena in their hospitals and to improve the management of inpatient obstetrical units. This work was presented at the 2008 Operational Research Applied to Health Services conference in Toronto in July. The abstract and presentation slides are available upon request and the proceedings paper will be available later this semester.

A Simulation Model for Analysis of Pneumatic Tube Systems

This project, funded by a small healthcare consulting firm and with the cooperation of a vendor in the pneumatic tube industry, involved the development of a Java based discrete event simulation model for analysis of hospital based pneumatic tube systems. These systems are a very important material handling system in most large hospitals. Unfortunately, they are extremely complex to configure and operate. Discrete event simulation models provide a means for exploring many issues relevant to pneumatic tube systems, such as: capacity planning, empty management strategies, priority policies and system routing logic. Our intent is to use this model to explore fundamental questions such as these and to publish the results in high quality journals as well as industry trade publications. Our goal is to push the state of the art of pneumatic tube systems engineering to a much higher level. This will benefit hospitals everywhere. We are presenting an overview of this project along with some early results related to empty management policies at the 2008 INFORMS Conference in Washington, D.C. in October.