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Patients requiring hospital treatment or tests are often faced with a lengthy wait. This can make a visit to the hospital even more stressful and unpleasant than it already is. It will save the patient – and everyone else – a lot of time if the hospital can plan several tests on the same day. The staff of the CHOIR research centre are devising various ways in which to optimize hospital schedules and reduce waiting times.

CHOIR is the Center for Healthcare Operations Improvement & Research at the University of Twente. Its researchers are looking for new solutions to the logistical problems within the healthcare system, such as the excessive waiting times faced by many patients.

Less time in A&E
When a patient arrives in the hospital's Accident and Emergency room (A&E), he or she is first assessed by staff to decide whether urgent treatment is required. If not, he will be asked to take a seat and wait until a doctor is available. The average waiting time is three hours. If a nurse examines the patient during that three hours, and is able to provide initial treatment, the total time that the patient spends in A&E can be reduced by an average of 14%: almost half an hour. This is one of the findings of a study conducted by CHOIR researchers at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.

Once the patient's condition has been diagnosed, a further wait for treatment begins. Here too, CHOIR is looking for ways to reduce the waiting time. Mathematical models can provide part of the solution, as in the study conducted by student Saskia Ton. She has developed a model for the A&E department of MST, a hospital in Enschede. In the model, the various patients in the waiting room are colour-coded according to the severity of their condition, as established by the initial assessment, and the expected waiting time. The doctor can then see at a glance which patient should be called next.

CAT scan without an appointment
It is not only A&E departments which make demands on the patient's patience. Coordination between various hospital departments also leaves something to be desired. Reducing waiting times for certain tests can do much to solve this problem. Final-year student Jelmer Kranenburg produced a computer simulation for the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, showing the effects of a 'drop-in' system for CAT scans. Patients would not need an appointment but could decide for themselves when to come for a scan. In many cases, it would then be possible to combine the scan with one or more other hospital appointments on the same day, which would greatly reduce travelling time for the patient. Hospital in-patients would be called for their scan when the department is not busy. This means that their waiting time will also be reduced.

CHOIR is a joint initiative of the Institute for Innovation and Governance Studies (IGS) and the Center for Telematics and Information Technology (CTIT). See also: