Long waiting lists in hospitals

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7332.252 (Published 02 February 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:252

Operational research needs to be used more often and may provide answers

  1. Harald Buhaug, chief scientist (harald.buhaug@unimed.sintef.no)
  1. Sintef UNIMED, 7465 Trondheim, Norway

    Information in practice p 280

    Long waiting lists have become symbols of the inefficiency of hospital services all over the world, particularly in publicly funded hospitals.1 After decades of attempts, we still do not know what it would take to solve the problem. The dynamics of waiting lists are not well understood.2 Also, the potential productive capacity of the hospitals is hard to estimate, as hospital production is very complex. We believe that most hospitals operate close to their capacity limits, given the way they are organised and given the present methods of coordination and control. We do not know if these methods are the best, or if significant improvements could be achieved by employing other methods.

    One way to alleviate the burden for patients waiting weeks or months for admission would be to give them the date of admission right away. A firm date would be of great practical value and probably make long waits less stressful. This requires a booked admission system. An operational research study of such a booked admission system …

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