By taking advantage of a principle known as resource flexibility, MIT doctoral student Kuang Xu has created a mathematical formula that can reduce the amount of time injured people wait for medical attention in the emergency room by ten percent. “Using predictive parameters—such as the day of the week and weather conditions—from models built by others, Xu’s algorithm improves wait times by 10 percent, which translates to approximately 40 minutes less time, on average, spent in an ER’s waiting room. Though Xu emphasizes that the work is still ongoing, his results so far have been promising.”
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What’s the Big Idea?
According to Xu, the same principle used to decrease ER waiting times has been used to improve efficiency in call centers by diversifying the abilities of its workers—in other words, making its resources more flexible. “Adding some flexibility to services is just one way to improve wait times. What if there were a way to know ahead of time how many people would be arriving, and when? ‘It turns out that in the flexible system we considered, if you know a little bit about the future, it brings you tremendous improvement even on top of what you already have with this flexibility.'”