Decision-support systems for ambulatory care, including pandemic requirements: using mathematically optimized solutions
Background The healthcare sector poses many strategic, tactic and operational planning questions. Due to the historically grown structures, planning is often locally confined and much optimization potential is foregone.
Methods We implemented optimized decision-support systems for ambulatory care for four different real-world case studies that cover a variety of aspects in terms of planning scope and decision support tools. All are based on interactive cartographic representations and are being developed in cooperation with domain experts. The planning problems that we present are the problem of positioning centers for vaccination against Covid-19 (strategical) and emergency doctors (strategical/tactical), the out-of-hours pharmacy planning problem (tactical), and the route planning of patient transport services (operational). For each problem, we describe the planning question, give an overview of the mathematical model and present the implemented decision support application.
Results Mathematical optimization can be used to model and solve these planning problems. However, in order to convince decision-makers of an alternative solution structure, mathematical solutions must be comprehensible and tangible. Appealing and interactive decision-support tools can be used in practice to convince public health experts of the benefits of an alternative solution. The more strategic the problem and the less sensitive the data, the easier it is to put a tool into practice.
Conclusions Exploring solutions interactively is rarely supported in existing planning tools. However, in order to bring new innovative tools into productive use, many hurdles must be overcome.