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Webinar Writeup: How Texas Oncology leveraged machine learning to unlock and increase infusion volume

Recently Tammy Sayers, Chief of Operations at Texas Oncology, explained how applying iQueue for Infusion Centers helped increase infusion volume, including daily patient intake by 20%. Missed this webinar live? View the entire recording here, or read a transcript here

With constant pressure to do more with less, and large time and cost barriers to growing physical capacity, cancer centers must examine how to best utilize the resources they already have to increase infusion volume. Tammy Sayers, Chief of Operations at Texas Oncology, shared how 20+ Texas Oncology locations were able to increase their volumes of daily scheduled appointments by up to 20% by applying iQueue for Infusion Centers. iQueue for Infusion Centers leverages machine learning and predictive analytics to help centers optimize their scheduling templates, level-load the daily schedule across their nursing staff, flag future problem days for preventive action, and identify which appointments should be rescheduled to improve experience for patients and staff alike. 

Sayers and her team are responsible for setting strategic objectives for Texas Oncology’s practices. To evaluate the success of each practice, they monitor metrics and financials and measure the quality of care delivered to patients. Texas Oncology has about 210 locations across the state, with 500 physicians, mostly medical oncologists. This footprint came about after 20 years of growth, with the goal of being located somewhere near all patients so that none of them have to drive too far for their cancer care.

After Texas Oncology’s dramatic growth, they needed a way to increase capacity without expanding its footprint further. They needed to increase volume in the infusion centers that already existed without spending additional capital.

What was preventing volume in infusion centers from increasing? 

After some analysis, Sayers and her team found an uneven utilization of infusion chairs, with a spike from 10am to 2pm at the majority of their centers. This phenomenon led to longer patient wait times. Sayers explained, “Nurses were exhausted and missing their breaks. We knew we had to do a better job around scheduling in our infusion centers. Then with COVID, we needed to not only maximize our staffing resources but we had to also maximize the existing space.”

The team partnered with iQueue for Infusion Centers and explained what their needs were. They developed a short list of cancer centers to begin implementation. In January of 2021, they went live in their largest center in the Dallas market with over 100 chairs.  

Increased infusion volume and capacity manifested almost immediately 

Early metrics showed clear and effective results from iQueue. 

  • 12 out of 14 (86%) locations had an increase in average scheduled appointments
  • 9 out of 14 (64%) locations had an increase in average daily scheduled patient hours
  • 11 out of 14 (79%) locations had a more level-loaded chair utilization through peak hours
  • 4 out of 8 (50%) locations had a higher median utilization during the afternoon hours

Sayers added, “We were up against COVID and trying to keep social distancing and limitations in our infusion rooms. So it’s quite miraculous to me that we had this increase at a time when we were having to go through all the COVID restrictions.”

Best practices and tools to increase infusion capacity every day 

Sayers shared these best practices and lessons learned from the experience in implementing iQueue for Infusion Centers:

  • Reduce appointment starts during lunch hours to allow nurses lunch breaks and increase nurse satisfaction.
  • Better schedule patient arrivals to more accurately plan for nurse availability to decrease patient wait time and alleviate chaos for nurses throughout the day.
  • Increase use of advanced scheduling tools to more proactively plan future days so managers can simply look at the tool and quickly plan their days.
  • Offer a simplified scheduler’s view to find ideal appointment times so schedulers can use the visuals to see exactly where there’s a slot available to meet the needs of the patients, the doctors, and the nursing staff.
  • Level load daily schedules to accommodate increased patient volume without an increase in fixed resources.

Continuing to build infusion volume in the future

Sayers stated that Texas Oncology continues to work with the iQueue for Infusion Centers team to further level load their days and optimize afternoon hours. She added, “We continue to have COVID challenges as everyone else does. And so this tool allows us to face those challenges head-on and to continue to not strain our resources and better schedule our patients.” Texas Oncology has a system-wide expansion slated for iQueue for Infusion Centers. She concluded, “We look forward to our continued partnership with LeanTaaS and further optimization.”

For more success stories on increasing infusion volume, visit the iQueue for Infusion Centers resource page.

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