Robust Appointment Scheduling with Heterogeneous Costs

Authors Andreas S. Schulz, Rajan Udwani

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Author Details

Andreas S. Schulz
  • Technische Universität München, Germany
Rajan Udwani
  • Columbia University, New York, NY, USA


The authors would like to thank James B. Orlin for helpful discussions.

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Andreas S. Schulz and Rajan Udwani. Robust Appointment Scheduling with Heterogeneous Costs. In Approximation, Randomization, and Combinatorial Optimization. Algorithms and Techniques (APPROX/RANDOM 2019). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 145, pp. 25:1-25:17, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2019)


Designing simple appointment systems that under uncertainty in service times, try to achieve both high utilization of expensive medical equipment and personnel as well as short waiting time for patients, has long been an interesting and challenging problem in health care. We consider a robust version of the appointment scheduling problem, introduced by Mittal et al. (2014), with the goal of finding simple and easy-to-use algorithms. Previous work focused on the special case where per-unit costs due to under-utilization of equipment/personnel are homogeneous i.e., costs are linear and identical. We consider the heterogeneous case and devise an LP that has a simple closed-form solution. This solution yields the first constant-factor approximation for the problem. We also find special cases beyond homogeneous costs where the LP leads to closed form optimal schedules. Our approach and results extend more generally to convex piece-wise linear costs. For the case where the order of patients is changeable, we focus on linear costs and show that the problem is strongly NP-hard when the under-utilization costs are heterogeneous. For changeable order with homogeneous under-utilization costs, it was previously shown that an EPTAS exists. We instead find an extremely simple, ratio-based ordering that is 1.0604 approximate.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Approximation algorithms analysis
  • Theory of computation → Discrete optimization
  • Theory of computation → Scheduling algorithms
  • Appointment scheduling
  • approximation algorithms
  • robust optimization


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