Tutorial in Medical Decision Modeling Incorporating Waiting Lines and Queues Using Discrete Event Simulation

Value Health. Jun-Jul 2010;13(4):501-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4733.2010.00707.x. Epub 2010 Mar 22.


In most decision-analytic models in health care, it is assumed that there is treatment without delay and availability of all required resources. Therefore, waiting times caused by limited resources and their impact on treatment effects and costs often remain unconsidered. Queuing theory enables mathematical analysis and the derivation of several performance measures of queuing systems. Nevertheless, an analytical approach with closed formulas is not always possible. Therefore, simulation techniques are used to evaluate systems that include queuing or waiting, for example, discrete event simulation. To include queuing in decision-analytic models requires a basic knowledge of queuing theory and of the underlying interrelationships. This tutorial introduces queuing theory. Analysts and decision-makers get an understanding of queue characteristics, modeling features, and its strength. Conceptual issues are covered, but the emphasis is on practical issues like modeling the arrival of patients. The treatment of coronary artery disease with percutaneous coronary intervention including stent placement serves as an illustrative queuing example. Discrete event simulation is applied to explicitly model resource capacities, to incorporate waiting lines and queues in the decision-analytic modeling example.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angioplasty, Balloon, Coronary / economics
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Coronary Disease / economics
  • Coronary Disease / therapy
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Health Care Rationing*
  • Humans
  • Models, Econometric
  • Waiting Lists*