Bringing robustness to patient flow management through optimized patient transports in hospitals
- Intra-hospital transports are often required for diagnostic or therapeutic reasons. Depending on the hospital layout, transportation between nursing wards and service units is either provided by ambulances or by trained personnel who accompany patients on foot. In many large German hospitals, the patient transport service is poorly managed and lacks workflow coordination. This contributes to higher hospital costs (e.g. when a patient is not delivered to the operating room on time) and to patient inconvenience due to longer waiting times. We have designed a computer-based planning system - Opti-TRANS c - that supports all phases of the transportation flow, ranging from travel booking, dispatching transport requests to monitoring and reporting trips in real-time. The methodology developed to solve the underlying optimization problem - a dynamic dial-a-ride problem with hospital-specific constraints - draws on fast heuristic methods to ensure the efficient and timely provision of transports. We illustrate the strong impact of Opti-TRANS c on the daily performance of the patient transportation service of a large German hospital. The major benefits obtained with the new tool include streamlined transportation processes and workflow, significant savings and improved patient satisfaction. Moreover, the new planning system has contributed to increase awareness among hospital staff about the importance of implementing efficient logistics practices.