Many outpatient facilities with expensive resources, such as infusion and imaging centers, experience surge in their patient arrival at times and are under-utilization at other times. This pattern results in patient safety concerns, patient and staff dissatisfaction, and limitation in growth, among others. Scheduling practices is found to be one of the main contributors to this problem.

We developed a real-time scheduling framework to address the problem, specifically for infusion clinics. The algorithm assumes no knowledge of future appointments and does not change past appointments. Operational constraints are taken into account, and the algorithm can offer multiple choices to patients.

We generalize this framework to a new scheduling model and analyze its performance through competitive ratio. The resource utilization of the real-time algorithm is compared with an optimal algorithm, which knows the entire future. It can be proved that the competitive ratio of the scheduling algorithm is between 3/2 and 5/3 of an optimal algorithm.

This work was performed with the MIT/MGH Collaboration.