Artykuł ukazał się w Medical Maestro Magazine, Vol. 14, s./p. 1925-2072
This article considers some of the ways in which the demand for healthcare services fluctuates and the strategies which are available to cope with that fluctuation. It aims to increase awareness of the complex pattern of demand for healthcare services and to discuss some of the strategies available to practitioners to deal with these challenges. These strategies can include the development of flexible capacity, the management of demand levels and the management of patient perceptions of waiting time.
Many service industries suffer from large fluctuations in demand for output combined with a relatively fixed level of capacity. Examples include passenger transport, flower shops, tax offices, swimming pools, hairdressers, and birth facilities at hospitals. This creates periods of idle service at some times and periods of consumers waiting at other times. Generally there is very little opportunity to create stocks of service and adding capacity during peak periods only is often not feasible. Accordingly, an important alternative strategy is to manage the timing of demand.
Fluctuating demand for healthcare
Demand for healthcare services can fluctuate quite strongly. For example, demand for A&E (Accident & Emergency) varies by time of day, day of week and by month. It also has a number of peaks linked to specific social patterns. Recent data from English A&E attendances shows June and July as the busiest months with daily attendance figures of 57,100 and 56,400 respectively, whilst the January figure of around 48,800 attendances was the lowest (HSCIC, 2016). The same data shows Monday to be the busiest day with almost 16% of all attendances, and around 10 a.m. to be the busiest time of arrival. Specific reasons for attendance have their own peaks. For example: road accident related attendance peaks in the rush hours, and sports injuries related attendances peak on weekend afternoons and Monday mornings.