• Vol. 38 No. 7, 639–642
  • 15 July 2009

Operational Research Methodology in the General Medical Rounds



Operations Research (OR), also called Operational Research in the United Kingdom (UK), uses various computational tools for solutions to complex problems within a system. It deals with challenges in planning, scheduling, forecasting, process analysis and decision analysis. It also addresses individual components of the system. The methodology used for decisions based upon stochastic (random) processes can also be adapted for the common general medical ward round. Operational Research techniques add speed, efficiency, quality and consistency to the documentation in the case notes, and reduces the time taken for ward rounds. There is obvious benefit to the individual patient. It also acts as a learning tool which can be audited, and lends itself to research questions.

Operations Research, also known as Operational Research in the UK, has an important role to play in cost-effective management in many sectors. It has its origins in military operations during the Second World War, and began when scientists in Britain were asked to develop procedures for the use of radar in a new and effective air defence system, that is, this was research to improve operations. Operations Research builds mathematical models of decision-making processes, and applies the resulting techniques and algorithms in the fields of engineering, finance, service systems and management. The methodology may also be used in medicine in predictive health, disease modelling, public health, medical preparedness, logistics, quality improvement and informatics. This has applications in reducing waiting times, triage in the Emergency Department, work-fl ow development, Operation Theatre and Day Surgery management, outsourcing of services, management of information technology, nurse scheduling, bed forecasting, ambulance scheduling, portering operations, stock inventory, salaries, waste disposal, catering and in manpower planning, to name a few. Operations Research has a vital role in emergency planning for natural disasters, during which there may be periods of mass utilisation of men and materials. The discipline of managerial science, also known as Operations Research, applies scientific methods to provide decision makers with more insights and information about their systems. The issue of how best to reduce utilisation of diagnostic studies without detracting from patient management necessitates a meeting of managerial science with medicine.1 Bree et al2 studied a new utilisation management tool, the Consultant Radiologist as a gatekeeper, for its ability to improve inpatient diagnostic imaging. This was an example of the use of Operations Research in medicine. These gatekeeper principles are used to develop utilisation management tools such as critical pathways, and are especially useful in high-cost and high-usage operations. By creating lanes and barriers, the clinician learns which examinations are useful and which are not.3

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