Patients' waiting time and doctors' idle time in the outpatient setting

Health Serv Res. Summer 1966;1(1):66-90.


If outpatient care is to be made acceptable to the patient and still remain efficient, some balance between the patients' waiting time and the doctors' idle time must be achieved. Examination of the literature on the subject and of three specific waiting-time studies revealed that there are at least seven variables affecting this relationship: appointment interval, service time, patients' arrival pattern, number of no-shows, number of walk-ins, physicians' arrival pattern, and interruptions in patient services.

An outpatient department simulator was constructed so that each of these variables could be manipulated and its effect on the doctors' idle time—patients' waiting time relation assessed. Specific experiments were conducted to determine the effect of patient loads, patients' early and late arrival times, physicians' promptness, and a combination of these variables on the operation of the clinic. Results of the simulation runs are presented.

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Hospital Administration*
  • Humans
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital*
  • Patients*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • State Medicine
  • United States