Transform Spotlight: Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center used AI-driven scheduling to grow patient volume by 33% while planning site expansion
At LeanTaaS’ fourth biannual Transform Virtual Hospital Operations Summit in December 2022, Hilary Chandler, Nurse Manager of Cancer Services at Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center, discussed how AI technology helped turn infusion expansion challenges into opportunities to streamline nurse schedules and grow patient volumes. For the full session, visit here.
A multi-speciality group practice whose driving focus is quality care, the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic comprises 650 providers across 32 sites in the greater Houston area. The Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center, located at the clinic’s main Berthelsen campus and the Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center, is certified by the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®), an affiliate of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
With its high standards for care and large, diverse, and increasing patient population, the 50-chair infusion center housed at the Spring location had to adapt nurse and appointment schedules to grow capacity accordingly. In two years of deploying AI to optimize infusion scheduling and better utilize the chairs they had, the center increased patient volumes by 33%, completing over 27,000 visits for cancer and other specialty patients by the end of 2022.
We knew our organization was growing rapidly, and we wouldn’t be able to accommodate all the patients we were seeing over the coming years. We had plans for adding new infusion centers, but not the data to inform us on when to make those changes and what to do in the interim to accommodate our growing demand for appointments. Hilary Chandler, Nurse Manager of Cancer Services at Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center
Homegrown scheduling tools caused frustration to a growing infusion center
Prior to 2019, when the Spring infusion center was smaller and had limited appointments, they used a homegrown “DIY” solution built from spreadsheets and shared guidelines for patient scheduling. As the patient population expanded, however, the center encountered associated challenges, including morning and afternoon appointment peaks and subsequent inability to accommodate frequent midday add-ons. In these circumstances nurses frequently missed lunches and worked late, while vulnerable patients waited indefinitely for infusion chairs to open.
The manual system did not have the capacity to help nursing leadership solve the complex math involved in level-loading the schedule or predicting add-ons. Rather than devoting time and energy to patient care, nurse managers, supervisors, and charge nurses spent hours each day preparing the following day’s appointment schedule – which would only be disrupted by staffing changes, cancellations, and add-ons the next morning. Working day-to-day to manage patient loads this way, Kelsey-Seybold nurses experienced ongoing stress and frustration.
As a leader, you want to know what will happen next week, next month, next year. And we just didn’t have the information on what we needed to do differently to be successful. We were pretty much getting from one day to the next. We knew we needed a solution, and we knew that couldn’t be our DIY solution anymore.” Hilary Chandler
Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center leaders use AI technology to support efficient, effective infusion center scheduling
From 2019 going into 2020, Kelsey-Seybold leadership explored partnering with LeanTaaS to solve their scheduling challenges. They then adopted the AI solution iQueue for Infusion Centers, going live with the technology in January 2021 to begin infusion scheduling optimization. At its launch, iQueue supported a scheduling template built on the center’s historic data and forecasting future data, so that nurse leadership could easily produce flexible, level-loaded schedules that best used the capacity available and eliminated daily peaks.
Throughout 2021 and into 2022, patient demand at the Spring site continued to grow, and this increasing number of patients in turn needed multiple options for their appointment times. iQueue utilization data showed opportunities to expand scheduling templates before the center outgrew them, and throughout the years leadership added further templates accordingly. The information nurse leaders gleaned from iQueue empowered them to make impactful decisions with minimal stress.
Only when the data showed existing capacity was truly maximized did leadership take steps to add further capacity, hiring an additional nurse in May 2022 and expanding operating hours in August. As nurses already worked 4/10 schedules, the additional hours had minimal impact on them, and iQueue’s AI-driven schedules continued to support consistent and predictable workflows with regular breaks. Kelsey-Seybold kept providing the exceptional patient experience they prioritized, as patient wait times were reduced even as volumes grew.
Providing forward-looking tools and retrospective metrics is fundamental for data driven decision making. Not only is iQueue a useful tool in making administrative and business decisions, but also in the day-to-day scheduling. Our medical assistants and nurses…seamlessly use the tool, they’ve integrated it into their daily workflows, and it’s streamlined their day-to-day, and made them much more effective in their roles. Hilary Chandler
Higher patient volumes, lower patient wait times: the impact of AI-driven infusion scheduling at Kelsey-Seybold
Using iQueue, Kelsey-Seybold successfully flattened morning and afternoon peaks and fully scheduled their operating hours, and absorbed growth by better using the chairs they already had. In all locations, Kelsey-Seybold achieved:
- 33% increase in patient volumes
- 31% increase in chair utilization
- 33% reduction in patient wait times
- 8% reduction in drug wait times
- From Q4 2020 to Q4 2021, a 25% increase from 1,885 visits to over 2,500 visits
The Spring location specifically saw a daily average of 48 completed visits in October 2022, compared to 36 daily visits in Q4 2020.
“For our teams, the proof’s been in the pudding. They’ve seen so many improvements that now they really have embraced the way that we’ve used this data to transform our operations.” Hilary Chandler
The future of AI in the cancer center: absorbing future capacity growth at Kelsey-Seybold
Kelsey-Seybold plans to open three new satellite centers over the next 18 months, for an additional 45 to 50 chairs along with procedure rooms. As this expands patient access throughout greater Houston, the center will continue leveraging iQueue to promote sustainable schedules for patients and nurses alike, and to provide high-quality care.
“iQueue for Infusion Centers has served as a valuable resource for us… we’re excited about what the future holds, and particularly to have a tool that allows us to make smart decisions…We also feel we have a great partnership. LeanTaaS has experience with expansions at other organizations, and they’re open to sharing that and helping us to make good decisions.” Hilary Chandler
For the full session, including a conversation about Kelsey-Seybold’s engaging staff with iQueue and sustaining a strong, safe nurse-patient ratio, visit the Transform site.