Appointment scheduling is generally applied in outpatient clinics and other healthcare services. The challenge in scheduling is to find a strategy for dealing with variability and unpredictability in service duration and patient arrivals. The consequences of an ineffective strategy include long waiting times for patients and idle time for the healthcare provider. In turn, these have implications for the perceived quality, cost-efficiency, and capacity of healthcare services. The generation of optimal schedules is a notoriously intractable problem, and earlier attempts at designing effective strategies for appointment scheduling were based on approximation, simulation, or simplification. We propose a novel strategy for scheduling that exploits three tactical ideas to make the problem manageable. We compare the proposed strategy to other approaches, and show that it matches or outperforms competing methods in terms of flexibility, ease of use, and speed. More importantly, it outperforms competing approaches nearly uniformly in approaching the desired balance between waiting and idle times as specified in a chosen objective function. Therefore, the strategy is a good basis for further enrichments.

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Decision Sciences
Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica, Amsterdam (CWI), The Netherlands

Kuiper, A., Mandjes, M., de Mast, J., & Brokkelkamp, R. (2021). A flexible and optimal approach for appointment scheduling in healthcare. Decision Sciences, 54(1), 85–100. doi:10.1111/deci.12517