A three-phase approach for operating theatre schedules

Health Care Manag Sci. 2007 Jun;10(2):163-72. doi: 10.1007/s10729-007-9011-1.


In this paper we develop a three-phase, hierarchical approach for the weekly scheduling of operating rooms. This approach has been implemented in one of the surgical departments of a public hospital located in Genova (Genoa), Italy. Our aim is to suggest an integrated way of facing surgical activity planning in order to improve overall operating theatre efficiency in terms of overtime and throughput as well as waiting list reduction, while improving department organization. In the first phase we solve a bin packing-like problem in order to select the number of sessions to be weekly scheduled for each ward; the proposed and original selection criterion is based upon an updated priority score taking into proper account both the waiting list of each ward and the reduction of residual ward demand. Then we use a blocked booking method for determining optimal time tables, denoted Master Surgical Schedule (MSS), by defining the assignment between wards and surgery rooms. Lastly, once the MSS has been determined we use the simulation software environment Witness 2004 in order to analyze different sequencings of surgical activities that arise when priority is given on the basis of a) the longest waiting time (LWT), b) the longest processing time (LPT) and c) the shortest processing time (SPT). The resulting simulation models also allow us to outline possible organizational improvements in surgical activity. The results of an extensive computational experimentation pertaining to the studied surgical department are here given and analyzed.

MeSH terms

  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Operating Rooms / organization & administration*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / organization & administration*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative*
  • Time Factors
  • Waiting Lists