Modelling Queues in Healthcare

Queuing systems in healthcare are many and varied.

They include the obvious physical queues of patients found in outpatient waiting rooms, walk-in centres and accident & emergency departments; the less obvious queues of people on waiting lists for an outpatient clinic appointment or for a hospital admission; queues of specimens to be tested in a pathology lab or X-rays to be interpreted; plus emergency services such as ambulances, intensive care and emergency admission units where a design requirement is that queues never form.

Each of these situations brings with it characteristics that classical queueing models are not well-suited to cope with. In hospital waiting lists arrival rates usually depend on waiting times, outpatient clinics are transient and never settle to steady state, emergency services often need to be modelled as time dependent loss systems, accident and emergency departments and walk-in centres are time-dependent networks of queues.

Research in this area aims to use a combination of analytic and simulation approaches to queue modelling to understand real life healthcare queueing systems as well as possible, drawing in particular on the insights provided by analytic approaches and the flexibility of simulation modelling.

For further information contact Dave Worthington.