The heath care system is a complicated combination of different activities. If an integrated control system is not put in place, unattractive long tedious and uncontrollable queues develop. Such a system relies on rules to help assign and direct patients to different work stations. These controlled systems also help the healthcare service providers to offer quality services and reduce costs of the services.
Some of the few elements of service that are tangible and that need to be well controlled are the patient waiting times and the congestion state of the waiting rooms. If well planned and executed such control measures have the ability of increase the hospitals ability to utilize expensive and effective medical equipments and personnel that will serve to improve the quality of the services offered (Bodenheimer & Grumbach, 2006).
Such measures also will serve to decongest the waiting rooms and effectively reduce the waiting times for the patients. Studies have indicated that prolonged waiting periods in hospitals is the number one reason for customer dissatisfaction so for a hospital to be competent in offering services the waiting times should be reasonable.
Most of these problems result from the sharing of the commonly used facilities like the laboratory, the operating rooms and the intensive care unit and for better functioning of the hospital; such complexities must be removed. Mostly assignment rules are used to help solve these complexities.
There are several rules that can be used in a hospital to minimize queues and minimize problems arising from them. These rules include the first come, first served, FCFS rule, the appointment rule, the earliest due date, EDD rule, the shortest process time, SPT rule, the critical ratio, CR rule and the earliest operation due date, ODD rule.
The most commonly used rule of sequencing in today’s health care is the appointment rule. Fluctuations that come about when patients start arriving at the clinics randomly could be the leading contributor of most congestion and increased waiting time usually observed in some clinics. These patients arrive at random times and all of them require different and varying times for treatment.
The issue of unpredictability on the demand and the different times each patient requires for treatment usually results to a high proportion of the staff having unnecessarily long periods of idle times and the prolonging of the waiting time of the patients.
Smoothing out of the problems that occur due to the randomness of the patients usually reduces the number of healthcare givers required to work on a particular number of patients and this automatically reduces the waiting lists and decongests the waiting rooms.
Appointment rule is mainly used to achieve this. The rule requires that all patients without an appointment and have just come at random to go back and come back at the appointed time when congestion will likely be low. This reduces significantly the patients waiting time. However this rule can only apply to those patients whose conditions are not an emergency. This will mean that the patients will be waiting for their turns at home and not the hospital.
It is a different rule from other rules that are currently being proposed in dealing with the congestion issues in the hospitals. One of these methods is the purely queuing method that requires the patients to wait in a line for them to receive treatment. Unlike the appointment rule, this method requires the patients to wait in the hospital for their turn and thus the issue of decongestion is not solved.