Radiation Oncologist, BC Cancer Agency

Hi everyone,

One of the key issues in cancer care is timely access to diagnostic and clinical resources, which requires the efficient coordination of services and utilization of resources. Creating an effective network of cancer care services across a large geographic region presents a number of challenges, and has a direct impact on the quality of patient care. This is a very relevant problem for a public healthcare system facing an increasing demand from an aging population. Judicious and robust decisions are required to meet the needs of the public while maintaining high quality care. The primary decisions include where to locate facilities and how to allocate resources and staff to each location.

Making these decisions involves varied facilities, services, technologies, geographic locations and demographics. Finding an optimal system configuration that takes into account all these aspects is not a trivial task, let alone making these decisions on a regular basis to account for the changing population, clinical practices and technologies.

At the BC Cancer Agency’s RTCIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), our team is developing and evaluating a framework to configure provincial cancer treatment services. This evidence-based, data-driven planning methodology accounts for current and future clinical practice, demographic characteristics and geographic considerations by applying various operations research methods such as statistical forecasting, optimization and programming.

We start with the current system configuration to gain a good understanding of the decision elements and gradually add more components. The final framework will consider all decision components simultaneously to generate an optimal service configuration. We believe this strategy will result in equal access, maximized coverage and minimized wait times, for the benefit of patients across the province.  

Thanks to my colleague, Emma Liu, on the Operations Research in Cancer Care Team, for collaborating on this blog post!

Scott