The hospital is a very complex system. Moving patients is like moving chess pieces. We take that information and look at all the dynamics and interplay and put it into a logical form. There may be a hundred options, and you have to figure out what works best.

Matt Bailey

A patient arrives at the emergency room and is admitted to the hospital. How long will it be before he gets to his room?

The answer depends on any number of factors ranging from how many beds are available to how long it takes for another patient to be examined and discharged.

"If a patient is discharged at noon, it may be 2, 3 or 4 p.m. before they are able to leave the hospital," says Matt Bailey, associate professor of management. "There are a lot of things that go into patient discharge, such as making sure the family knows the patient is ready and getting a doctor to sign the paperwork."

As part of his research, Bailey studies medical decision-making and health care operations, using the tools of management and operations science to assess patient care and how hospitals are using their resources. Using mathematical formulas involving probability, statistics and optimization, Bailey creates models to help determine the best courses of therapy and ways to make health care and hospitals more efficient.

Bailey is working with Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., to build a computer simulation that models patient arrival patterns and transfer rates based on the historical data. He and his fellow researchers use the model to evaluate a variety of potential alternatives and make recommendations about how the hospital may become more efficient.

"The hospital is a very complex system," he said. "Moving patients is like moving chess pieces. We take that information and look at all the dynamics and interplay and put it into a logical form. There may be a hundred options, and you have to figure out what works best."

In his medical decision making research, he develops optimization models to evaluate and identify the most promising treatment policies. His research can be used to focus the randomized control trials on the most promising treatment options. "I appreciate the balanced approach to teaching and research here," he says. "I still am able to really get to know students, teach small courses and do research."

Posted Sept. 20, 2011

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