Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

M. Eng.


Industrial Engineering

Committee Chair

Depuy, Gail W.

Author's Keywords

Simulation; Task analysis; Primary care clinic; Nonlinear workflow; Physician-nurse team; Evidence-based


Nurse-physician joint practice; Nurse and physician


Primary care has been identified as a vital part of the healthcare system in the U.S., and one that operates in a challenging, unique environment. Primary care sees a wide variety of patients and is undergoing a series of major transformations simultaneously. As a result, primary care would greatly benefit from a systemic approach to the analysis of its workflows. Discrete-event simulation has been identified as a good tool to evaluate complex healthcare systems. The existing primary care DES models focus on the physician. Also, those models are limited in (a) their usefulness to produce generic models that can easily and quickly be customized and (b) the analysis of the specific tasks performed to treat a patient. Hence, a research idea was developed to address these limitations, which led to a progressive multi-part study developing the necessary components to model a primary clinic. The study was constructed to allow each progressive study to build on the previous. The first part of the study developed a new approach to address those limitations: modeling a primary care clinic from the viewpoint that the physician is the entity that moves through the system. This approach was implemented based on observational data and a standardized primary care physician task list using ARENA© simulation software. The completed model is evidence-based, with the simulation producing predictions and analysis associated with a given patient visit that has not happened by mimicking reality. The benefits of this type of flexible model are that it allows for analysis of any type of “cost” that can be quantified, and it can then be utilized for predicting and potentially subsequently reducing procedural errors and variation in order to increase operational efficiency. The second part of the study was to develop a standardized primary care nurse task list, which is needed given the current transformation of primary care from a doctor-based model to a team-based model. A comprehensive, validated list of tasks occurring during clinic visits was complied from a secondary data analysis. For this, primary care clinics in Wisconsin were selected from a pre-existing study based on 100% participation of the physician-nurse teams. The final task list had 18 major tasks and 174 second-level subtasks, with 103 additional third-level tasks. This task list, combined with the primary care physician task list, provides a tool set that facilitates clinics’ analysis of the workflow associated with a complete patient encounter. Finally, the third part of the study used observational data, the standardized primary care nurse task list, and a similar modeling methodology to the first part to develop a simulation model of the primary care nurse. The model was implemented using ARENA© simulation software. This model is flexible, resulting in an easily-customizable model, and robust in that it allows the analysis of any type of “cost” that can be quantified, such as time, physical or mental resources, money, et cetera. This can potentially be used to predict, and reduce, procedural errors and variation in response to changes to the workflows or environment; hence, the operational efficiency and medical accuracy can be more accurately evaluated.