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Health Care

Helping doctors serve more patients

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Solving a no-show problem

Boston Medical Center (BMC) is a private, not-for-profit, academic hospital whose bold mission is to provide “exceptional care, without exception.” BMC serves those most in need and was facing a challenge with not enough available Cardiology Center appointments at the time of scheduling. Patients were being scheduled several months out, while at the same time, due to a high no-show rate, only 60 percent of appointment slots were actually being used. The hospital challenged Healthcare Lab (H-Lab) to see if students could improve scheduling at the clinic so that more patients could be seen and expensive physician time better utilized.

Applying data analysis

The H-Lab student team was tasked with figuring out how the clinic could serve more patients by identifying those most likely to miss their appointments. The team analyzed years’ worth of scheduling data to determine which factors – including type of insurance, age, gender, marital status, type of appointment, etc. – were most predictive of patient no-shows. The students developed a simple decision tree that the Cardiology Center’s front desk staff could use to classify patients as more or less likely to show up. They provided practical guidelines to help staff schedule appointments to keep physicians busy without being overbooked and help get more patients into the practice.

A 7% uptick

The H-Lab team’s recommendations brought immediate results. “Our host organization implemented new strategies informed by our team’s recommendations and has been able to increase its clinic utilization by 7 percent since implementation,” said Michael Hu, an MIT Sloan PhD student who worked on the project. “[They] reached out to us after the project ended to continue the collaboration with the intention of expanding the project to other clinics.”