An Operating Room Scheduling Strategy to Maximize the Use of Operating Room Block Time: Computer Simulation of Patient Scheduling and Survey of Patients' Preferences for Surgical Waiting Time

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Determining the appropriate amount of block time to allocate to surgeons and selecting the days on which to schedule elective cases can maximize operating room (OR) use.We used computer simulation to model OR scheduling. Inputs in the computer model included different methods to determine when a patient will have surgery (on-line bin-packing algorithms), case durations, lengths of time patients wait for surgery (2 wk is the median longest length of time that the outpatients [n = 367] surveyed considered acceptable), hours of block time each day, and number of blocks each week. For block time to be allocated to maximize OR utilization, two parameters must be specified: the method used to decide on what day a patient will have surgery and the average length of time patients wait to have surgery. OR utilization depends greatly on, and increases as, the average length of time patients wait for surgery increases. Implications: Operating room utilization can be maximized by allocating block time for the elective cases based on expected total hours of elective cases, scheduling patients into the first available date provided open block time is available within 4 wk, and otherwise scheduling patients in "overflow" time outside of the block time.(Anesth Analg 1999;89:7-20)

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