Reducing Bottlenecks to Improve the Efficiency of the Lung Cancer Care Delivery Process: A Process Engineering Modeling Approach to Patient-Centered Care


The process of lung cancer care from initial lesion detection to treatment is complex, involving multiple steps, each introducing the potential for substantial delays. Identifying the steps with the greatest delays enables a focused effort to improve the timeliness of care-delivery, without sacrificing quality. We retrospectively reviewed clinical events from initial detection, through histologic diagnosis, radiologic and invasive staging, and medical clearance, to surgery for all patients who had an attempted resection of a suspected lung cancer in a community healthcare system. We used a computer process modeling approach to evaluate delays in care delivery, in order to identify potential ‘bottlenecks’ in waiting time, the reduction of which could produce greater care efficiency. We also conducted ‘what-if’ analyses to predict the relative impact of simulated changes in the care delivery process to determine the most efficient pathways to surgery. The waiting time between radiologic lesion detection and diagnostic biopsy, and the waiting time from radiologic staging to surgery were the two most critical bottlenecks impeding efficient care delivery (more than 3 times larger compared to reducing other waiting times). Additionally, instituting surgical consultation prior to cardiac consultation for medical clearance and decreasing the waiting time between CT scans and diagnostic biopsies, were potentially the most impactful measures to reduce care delays before surgery. Rigorous computer simulation modeling, using clinical data, can provide useful information to identify areas for improving the efficiency of care delivery by process engineering, for patients who receive surgery for lung cancer.

Publication Title

Journal of Medical Systems