Blocking in Healthcare Operations: A New Heuristic and an Application



We consider the problem of optimal capacity allocation in a hospital setting, where patients pass through a set of units, for example intensive care and acute care (AC), or AC and post-acute care. If the second stage is full, a patient whose service at the first stage is complete is blocked and cannot leave the first stage. We develop a new heuristic for tandem systems to efficiently evaluate the effects of such blocking on system performance and we demonstrate that this heuristic performs well when compared with exact solutions and other approaches presented in the literature. In addition, we show how our tandem heuristic can be used as a building block to model more complex multi-stage hospital systems with arbitrary patient routing, and we derive insights and actionable capacity strategies for a real hospital system where such blocking occurs between units.