Scheduling challenges within our nation's hospitals aren't new, but they've been exacerbated by COVID-19. Scheduling has become increasingly complex due to high patient volume, patient quarantine requirements, staff shortages and quickly changing availability, and adaptation to new hospital policies to limit exposure and risk. Those challenges are not likely to go away, even after the pandemic begins to subside.

We've been talking to healthcare providers to understand how technology can be applied to address these scheduling problems and help frontline workers, both currently and in the future. We are proud to announce that this dialogue has resulted in a new component to the Red Hat Business Optimizer that allows healthcare organizations to use applied AI to solve scheduling and resource challenges.  

Practical AI for Clinical Operations: Using applied AI to optimize resources

The Red Hat Business Optimizer is a planning engine that uses applied AI to model resources and constraints and automatically generate recommended solutions to overcome those obstacles. Hospitals can use the Red Hat Business Optimizer to create schedules for more optimized care. Organizations can feed a series of data points into the system, and the system will generate recommended schedules that take into consideration all known constraints placed on the hospital and its staff.

Using COVID-19 as an example, a user can input a list of staff members providing care to infected patients. That list could include various data points pertaining to each employee, including their unique qualifications and overall availability. Based on this input, the system will produce an optimized shift schedule that hospital administrators can use to assign nurses and other staff based on known risk to COVID-19, optimize use of non-COVID and COVID-specific units, factor in staff attrition due to illness, and more.

Opportunities to solve other challenges

The Red Hat Business Optimizer is a part of the Red Hat Process Automation portfolio and compliments its Process and Rules capabilities. It is the enterprise version of OptaPlanner, a Red Hat-sponsored open source project that solves scheduling and resource constraints. 

True to the nature of open source, OptaPlanner–and, by extension, the Red Hat Business Optimizer–can be modified to address rapidly changing needs. The product has the potential to be used beyond resource and schedule management; other use cases could include the appropriate distribution and allocation of medical equipment, such as ventilators or membrane oxygenators. 

The agility and adaptability of its open source underpinnings stem from the ingenuity of the upstream open source community. Their work has made the application viable for a number of scenarios that could positively impact patient care–another example of open source's impact in society. 

Focus on health, not schedules

The scheduling challenges at our nation’s hospitals and point-of-care facilities are very real and rapidly evolving. We have a near-term opportunity to make life easier for both healthcare workers and their patients.

Our hope is that with the additional capabilities we’ve added to the Red Hat Business Optimizer, we are providing hospitals with a tool that will allow them to handle resource management better. We want them to focus all of their attention on keeping themselves and their patients healthy.

About the author

For two decades, Ben Cushing has been a leader in emerging technology solutions across multiple industries and is committed to radical innovation in healthcare. Before joining Red Hat, he served as the Chief Technology Officer for MDLogix, a behavioral health IT firm supporting Johns Hopkins Medicine. There he architected and brought to market a behavioural health cloud platform for use with employer, healthcare, and education markets.

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