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Identifying Areas for Operational Improvement and Growth in IR Workflow Using Workflow Modeling, Simulation, and Optimization Techniques.

  • Tellis, Ranjith1
  • Starobinets, Olga2
  • Prokle, Michael2
  • Raghavan, Usha Nandini3
  • Hall, Christopher3
  • Chugh, Tammana4
  • Koker, Ekin2
  • Chaduvula, Siva Chaitanya2
  • Wald, Christoph5
  • Flacke, Sebastian5
  • 1 Philips Research North America, 222 Jacobs St, Cambridge, MA, 02141, USA. [email protected]
  • 2 Philips Research North America, 222 Jacobs St, Cambridge, MA, 02141, USA.
  • 3 Philips Healthcare, Cambridge, MA, USA.
  • 4 University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA.
  • 5 Medical Center Interventional Radiology, Lahey Hospital, 67 South Bedford Street, East Lobby, Burlington, MA, 01803, USA.
Published Article
Journal of Digital Imaging
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1007/s10278-020-00397-z
PMID: 33236295


Identifying areas for workflow improvement and growth is essential for an interventional radiology (IR) department to stay competitive. Deployment of traditional methods such as Lean and Six Sigma helped in reducing the waste in workflows at a strategic level. However, achieving efficient workflow needs both strategic and tactical approaches. Uncertainties about patient arrivals, staff availability, and variability in procedure durations pose hindrances to efficient workflow and lead to delayed patient care and staff overtime. We present an alternative approach to address both tactical and strategic needs using discrete event simulation (DES) and simulation based optimization methods. A comprehensive digital model of the patient workflow in a hospital-based IR department was modeled based on expert interviews with the incumbent personnel and analysis of 192 days' worth of electronic medical record (EMR) data. Patient arrival patterns and process times were derived from 4393 individual patient appointments. Exactly 196 unique procedures were modeled, each with its own process time distribution and rule-based procedure-room mapping. Dynamic staff schedules for interventional radiologists, technologists, and nurses were incorporated in the model. Stochastic model simulation runs revealed the resource "computed tomography (CT) suite" as the major workflow bottleneck during the morning hours. This insight compelled the radiology department leadership to re-assign time blocks on a diagnostic CT scanner to the IR group. Moreover, this approach helped identify opportunities for additional appointments at times of lower diagnostic scanner utilization. Demand for interventional service from Outpatients during late hours of the day required the facility to extend hours of operations. Simulation-based optimization methods were used to model a new staff schedule, stretching the existing pool of resources to support the additional 2.5 h of daily operation. In conclusion, this study illustrates that the combination of workflow modeling, stochastic simulations, and optimization techniques is a viable and effective approach for identifying workflow inefficiencies and discovering and validating improvement options through what-if scenario testing.

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