Infusion centers manage a wide variety of treatment plans, patients and appointment lengths.
In addition, infusion procedures frequently follow other care appointments, making it a challenge to successfully manage a complex, constantly changing schedule. Solutions based on mathematical algorithms can better predict the flow of patients, helping infusion centers maximize their capacity without overburdening the facility or staff.
During an October webinar hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review and sponsored by LeanTaaS, three healthcare executives discussed challenges that infusion centers face and how LeanTaaS’ machine learning solution has helped address them. Panelists were:
- Suzanne Burke, clinical nurse supervisor, Rogel Cancer Center (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
- Akanksha Shukla, senior product manager, LeanTaaS
- Barbara Walters, senior project manager, Rogel Cancer Center
1. Infusion centers often face scheduling challenges with overbooked peak times and underutilized periods, causing inefficiencies and lost opportunities. “Our infusion area had excessive overbooking during the highly desirable hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., which caused lengthy patient wait times,” Ms. Burke said. “Our pharmacy struggled to keep up with the demand during this period. We also had extremely underutilized morning and afternoon hours.”
2. Mathematical tools can use historical data to improve scheduling. According to Ms. Shukla, LeanTaaS’ iQueue for Infusion Centers solution addresses the problem using optimization, predictive analytics, machine learning and other mathematical tools to generate a scheduling template. “For example, the system might look at the previous 1,000 times someone was scheduled for a three-hour appointment to learn the actual duration ranges,” she said. “This type of information generates a template that predicts the volume and mix of appointments for each day of the week with a high degree of precision. It can then figure out the schedule to match chair availability and nursing workflow.”
3. Behavioral changes can be the biggest challenge to implementation. When it came to implementing the LeanTaaS solution, the infusion center at Rogel Cancer Center found that the most difficult part was changing staff habits. “Behavior modification changes have been the biggest challenges during implementation,” Ms. Walters said. “It hasn’t been making changes to our schedule templates, working with Epic or partnering with the LeanTaaS team. That’s all worked great. It’s really convincing patients that it’s OK to uncouple their office visit from their infusion visit or train the staff to switch from asking, ‘When would you like to come in?’ to, ‘We have a 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. available, which would you like?'”
4. By improving scheduling and utilization accuracy, infusion centers can unlock capacity without expanding physical space or adding nursing staff. At the Rogel Cancer Center, the LeanTaaS solution forecasted that many more appointments would be taken off the schedule than added during the late morning and early afternoon hours. As a result, more appointments were scheduled during this period.
“The net loss of scheduled appointments during those hours allows the center to maximize its resources without running out of chairs,” Ms. Shukla said. “In this case, the template pushed the scheduled appointment volume during this time to 150, anticipating an 8 percent shrinkage and resulting in 138 theoretical appointments. As a result, the center is able to be at its maximum chair capacity, which is 43 chairs, quite a few times during the day or hover very close to it during treatment hours.”
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