Sizing capacity levels in emergency medical services dispatch centers: Using the newsvendor approach

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Abstract

Background:

The increased volume in demand worldwide in the present day has led to the need for the establishment of effective ambulance services. As call centers have become the primary contact point between patients and emergency service providers, the planning of the call center has become a key task for administrators.

Objectives:

The aim of this study is to apply a widely used operations management method, the newsvendor model, for optimizing the capacity level in EMS call centers with a minimum cost in order to efficiently meet the calls arriving.

Methods:

Real-life data from a call center for ambulance services in a major city in Turkey was used. We propose using the newsvendor model for optimizing this call center's capacity level based on the forecasts of periodic call volumes via basic methods.

Results:

Ambulance service call volumes vary during the day and weekday call profiles are different from weekends. By separating the analysis into weekdays and weekends and illustrating shorter time intervals within the days, call volume can be forecast. Taking not only the point forecast but also the variation of the forecast into account, the capacity level of each period can be planned in a cost-effective way.

Conclusions:

This paper provides a basis for operation planning strategies of ambulance services by reconsidering the uncertainties of demand. The newsvendor model, which works well under parameter uncertainty, can be used in planning the capacities of health care services, especially when high service levels are required.

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