Using overbooking to manage no-shows in an Italian healthcare center

Chiara Anna Parente, Domenico Salvatore, Giampiero Maria Gallo, Fabrizio Cipollini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: In almost all healthcare systems, no-shows (scheduled appointments missed without any notice from patients) have a negative impact on waiting lists, costs and resource utilization, impairing the quality and quantity of cares that could be provided, as well as the revenues from the corresponding activity. Overbooking is a tool healthcare providers can resort to reduce the impact of no-shows. Methods: We develop an overbooking algorithm, and we assess its effectiveness using two methods: an analysis of the data coming from a practical implementation in an healthcare center; a simulation experiment to check the robustness and the potential of the strategy under different conditions. The data of the study, which includes personal and administrative information of patients, together with their scheduled and attended examinations, was taken from the electronic database of a big outpatient center. The attention was focused on the Magnetic Resonance (MR) ward because it uses expensive equipment, its services need long execution times, and the center has actually used it to implement an overbooking strategy aimed at reducing the impact of no-shows. We propose a statistical model for the patient's show/no-show behavior and we evaluate the ensuing overbooking procedure implemented in the MR ward. Finally, a simulation study investigates the effects of the overbooking strategy under different scenarios. Results: The first contribution is a list of variables to identify the factors performing the best to predict no-shows. We classified the variables in three groups: "Patient's intrinsic factors", "Exogenous factors" and "Factors associated with the examination". The second contribution is a predictive model of no-shows, which is estimated on context-specific data using the variables just discussed. Such a model represents a fundamental ingredient of the overbooking strategy we propose to reduce the negative effects of no-shows. The third contribution is the assessment of that strategy by means of a simulation study under different scenarios in terms of number of resources and no-show rates. The same overbooking strategy was also implemented in practice (giving the opportunity to consider it as a quasi-experiment) to reduce the negative impact caused by non attendance in the MR ward. Both the quasi-experiment and the simulation study demonstrated that the strategy improved the center's productivity and reduced idle time of resources, although it increased slightly the patient's waiting time and the staff's overtime. This represents an evidence that overbooking can be suitable to improve the management of healthcare centers without adversely affecting their costs and the quality of cares offered. Conclusions: We shown that a well designed overbooking procedure can improve the management of medical centers, in terms of a significant increase of revenue, while keeping patient's waiting time and overtime under control. This was demonstrated by the results of a quasi-experiment (practical implementation of the strategy in the MR ward) and a simulation study (under different scenarios). Such positive results took advantage from a predictive model of no-show carefully designed around the medical center data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number185
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 15 2018


  • Healthcare
  • Logistic regression
  • No-show
  • Overbooking
  • Scheduling
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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