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Significant reduction of waiting time

The waiting time for a non-urgent CT scan at the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam has been shortened from 21 days to no more than 5. This significant reduction has not only improved the service to patients, but also cut the cost of the process. The move has increased the capacity utilisation of the CT scanner in Amsterdam.

This improvement is the result of a study conducted by the Innovation & Process Management Team at the AMC in association with the School of Management and Governance at the University of Twente (UT). The new approach to reducing waiting times can also be applied to a great many other hospital processes.

A simulation study showed that simple organisational modifications could lead to major improvements. Asking patients to come in ten minutes before an appointment is an example. However, the shorter waiting times have been achieved primarily by cutting the differences in the duration of a scan, making it possible to schedule patient appointments more efficiently. Theoretically, this approach can be applied to any hospital process that uses a reservation system and in which the duration of the appointment is variable.

One of the results of the study conducted by the AMC and UT showed that the administration of contrast fluid prior to a CT scan has a tremendous influence on the variability of the scan and hence the waiting time. Administering the contrast fluid in another room reduces the treatment duration and the variation in the waiting time. The simulation study also revealed that other issues such as maintenance and planning show potential for significant improvement as well.

Other factors that affect waiting times have also been tackled. For example, patients are now asked to be at the hospital ten minutes before their appointment, so staff no longer have to wait for them.

Note to the editors:

More information is available from Erwin Hans, School of Management and Governance at the University of Twente, +31 (0)53 489 3523, e.w.hans@utwente.nl, or Sylvia Elkhuizen (AMC) +31 (0)20-5666715, S.G.Elkhuizen@amc.uva.nl

A scientific article on this study will appear in the Health Care Management Review, vol. 32, no. 1, 2007: ‘Applying the Variety Reduction Principle to management of ancillary services’, S.G. Elkhuizen (AMC), J.R.C. van Sambeek, E.W. Hans, J.J. Krabbendam, P.J.M. Bakker.

Enschede/Amsterdam, 18 January 2006