Online scheduling using a fixed template: the case of outpatient chemotherapy drug administration

Health Care Manag Sci. 2022 Nov 2. doi: 10.1007/s10729-022-09616-1. Online ahead of print.


In this paper, we use a fixed template of slots for the online scheduling of appointments. The template is a link between planning the service capacity at a tactical level and online scheduling at an operational level. We develop a detailed heuristic for the case of drug administration appointments in outpatient chemotherapy. However, the approach can be applied to online scheduling in other application areas as well. The desired scheduling principles are incorporated into the cost coefficients of the objective function of a binary integer program for booking appointments in the template, as requests arrive. The day and time of appointments are decided simultaneously, rather than sequentially, where optimal solutions may be eliminated from the search. The service that we consider in this paper is an example to show the versatility of a fixed template online scheduling model. It requires two types of resource, one of which is exclusively assigned for the whole appointment duration, and the other is shared among multiple appointments after setting up the service. There is high heterogeneity among appointments on a day of this service. The appointments may range from fifteen minutes to more than eight hours. A fixed template gives a pattern for the scheduling of possibly required steps before the service. Instead of maximizing the fill-rate of the template, the objective of our heuristic is to have high performance in multiple indicators pertaining to various stakeholders (patients, nurses, and the clinic). By simulation, we illustrate the performance of the fixed template model for the key indicators.

Keywords: Chemotherapy; Mixed integer programming; Online scheduling; Operations management; Operations research; Simulation; Template.