Patient classification system: An integrated method for measuring nursing intensity and optimizing resource allocation

Lynn Maddox Walts, The University of Texas School of Public Health


A patient classification system was developed integrating a patient acuity instrument with a computerized nursing distribution method based on a linear programming model. The system was designed for real-time measurement of patient acuity (workload) and allocation of nursing personnel to optimize the utilization of resources. The acuity instrument was a prototype tool with eight categories of patients defined by patient severity and nursing intensity parameters. From this tool, the demand for nursing care was defined in patient points with one point equal to one hour of RN time. Validity and reliability of the instrument was determined as follows: (1) Content validity by a panel of expert nurses; (2) predictive validity through a paired t-test analysis of preshift and postshift categorization of patients; (3) initial reliability by a one month pilot of the instrument in a practice setting; and (4) interrater reliability by the Kappa statistic. The nursing distribution system was a linear programming model using a branch and bound technique for obtaining integer solutions. The objective function was to minimize the total number of nursing personnel used by optimally assigning the staff to meet the acuity needs of the units. A penalty weight was used as a coefficient of the objective function variables to define priorities for allocation of staff. The demand constraints were requirements to meet the total acuity points needed for each unit and to have a minimum number of RNs on each unit. Supply constraints were: (1) total availability of each type of staff and the value of that staff member (value was determined relative to that type of staff's ability to perform the job function of an RN (i.e., value for eight hours RN = 8 points, LVN = 6 points); (2) number of personnel available for floating between units. The capability of the model to assign staff quantitatively and qualitatively equal to the manual method was established by a thirty day comparison. Sensitivity testing demonstrated appropriate adjustment of the optimal solution to changes in penalty coefficients in the objective function and to acuity totals in the demand constraints. Further investigation of the model documented: correct adjustment of assignments in response to staff value changes; and cost minimization by an addition of a dollar coefficient to the objective function.

Subject Area

Health care|Operations research|Nursing

Recommended Citation

Walts, Lynn Maddox, "Patient classification system: An integrated method for measuring nursing intensity and optimizing resource allocation" (1992). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9302801.