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Better Medical Care, On Cue
Hubble Space Telescope A team of engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute developed software to manage time-consuming tasks for the Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990. The scheduling technology is now used in software that helps hospitals reclaim unused capacity.
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image of On-Cue On-Cue helps hospital departments handle dynamic rescheduling issues by allocating resources and managing disruptions in real time for inpatient and outpatient imaging procedures. By automating the rescheduling process, the software can reduce operating costs and wait times.
Image courtesy of Allocade Inc.
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Software for managing the busy schedule of the Hubble Space Telescope has led to technology that does the same for hospitals.

Scientists around the world have clamored to use the Hubble Space Telescope for their research. The only problem is there are thousands of scientists—and only one Hubble.

When it first became operational, Hubble functioned under a variety of scheduling restraints. For example, in order to conserve energy, it could have only two scientific instruments operating at one time. In order to compensate for these scheduling constraints, Hubble’s software team designed a system that worked around these conflicts using a variety of methods.

One of the team members who worked on Hubble, NASA computer scientist Don Rosenthal, helped develop the scheduling system, refining the algorithms and consequently increasing the telescope’s efficiency. After working on Hubble, Rosenthal acquired intellectual property rights to the scheduling technology. He then went on to co-found Menlo Park, California’s Allocade Inc. Using Rosenthal’s experience with Hubble’s software, Allocade created its On-Cue software suite, which optimizes schedules for another hectic field where time is of the essence: medicine.

A Solution from Space

On-Cue is a software solution that enables hospitals to reclaim their unused capacity. The system helps hospital departments handle dynamic rescheduling issues by allocating resources and managing disruptions in real time for inpatient and outpatient imaging procedures. In the past, staff made these time-consuming adjustments through numerous phone calls, whiteboards, handwritten notes, and faxes, which caused delays and frustration for both patients and staff.

By automating the rescheduling process, Allocade helps hospitals manage frequent changes more efficiently, which can reduce operating costs and wait times. When there is an unexpected flood of emergency procedures, for instance, the system can reallocate staff and resources, telling a transport member to keep a scheduled patient comfortable in her room until later, and freeing up transport for unexpected cases.

On-Cue also makes specific recommen¬dations when rescheduling, taking into consideration various department and hospital policies and constraints. As a result, hospitals can manage staff and patient flow far more efficiently, which increases satisfaction and profit.

Proven Benefits

One of the first customers for Allocade’s system was the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco. Prior to adopting the On-Cue software, CPMC had 2 weeks of backlog in its computerized tomography department. Schedules changed constantly, and staff began to realize that traditional tracking methods simply wasted too much time. The radiology department was thrown into chaos when the inevitable emergency procedures would take precedence over scheduled procedures, and other departments had no way of efficiently tracking changes to their patients’ visits to radiology.

After adopting the On-Cue software, the medical center soon reported noticeable improvements to efficiency, including a 12-percent increase in procedure volume, 35-percent reduction in staff overtime, and significant reductions in backlog and technician phone time.

To learn more about this NASA spinoff, read the original article from Spinoff 2009.