The single-day surgery scheduling problem: sequential decision-making and threshold-based heuristics
Scheduling elective surgeries is a dynamic, sequential decision-making process that must balance the costs of deferring waiting cases and blocking higher-priority cases. Although other surgery scheduling problems have received extensive treatment in the literature, this paper presents the first single-day scheduling problem formulation to capture this aspect of the scheduling process while also incorporating surgical block schedules, block release policies, and waiting lists. Theoretical results for the special case in which all cases have the same duration motivate a range of threshold-based heuristics for the general problem with multiple case durations. Our computational results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed heuristics and show how block release dates affect the quality of the scheduling decisions. Based on these results, we propose a new approach to surgery scheduling. In particular, to make more equitable waiting list decisions, operating room (OR) managers should gradually release unused OR time over the course of several days leading up to the day of surgery.