Health Care Logistics

Healthcare logistics addresses the efficient planning, realization and control of patient-, material- and information-flow within the healthcare sector. Therefore, the use of Operations Research (OR) methods plays a crucial role. It is important to not only put emphasis upon the economic efficiency but also to take the quality of care and patient satisfaction into account. On the other hand, healthcare logistics should not get involved in (core) medical decisions.

Healthcare logistics addresses healthcare facilities and service providers at all levels, for example general practitioners (GP) providing primary care or emergency departments (ED) treating patients with pressing health issues. Care pathways containing several different providers as well as the interaction of providers and services, e.g. when patients are transferred to a hospital by their GP, are also targeted. Usually, processes in healthcare grew historically ("We have always done it this way."). Consequently, processes have not been analyzed critically until reforms of the health system have put increasing pressure on the providers. Nowadays, especially hospitals are looking for possibilities to improve their processes. The success of logistics concepts in healthcare lies in resource conservation for non-value-adding activities (not directly relevant for the healing process, e.g., administrative work) and high resource utilization for value-adding activities (e.g., surgery) while the personnel shall not be over-utilized (i.e., no overtime). Moreover, the interaction of appropriate logistics concepts with modern OR models allow a patient centered treatment, by respecting the needs of a patient and allowing a smoother process. The digitalization of the healthcare sector offers additional opportunities.

In this talk, we give an overview on how OR methods can be used in order to support process optimization in healthcare organizations. For a subset of healthcare logistics applications arising in different healthcare sectors OR models and numerical results mainly from real world projects will be presented. Examples include: location planning for ambulances and GPs, appointment planning, emergency department simulation, layout planning for hospitals and many more. We will also give some information on how healthcare logistics research is organized in Karlsruhe.