Characterization of the flow of patients in a hospital from complex networks

  • M. A. MirandaEmail author
  • S. Salvatierra
  • I. Rodríguez
  • M. J. Álvarez
  • V. Rodríguez


We study the efficiency of operations management in a hospital from the dynamics of the flow of patients. Our principal aim is to characterize strategic departments and seasonal patterns in a hospital from a complex networks approach. Process mining techniques are developed to track out-patients’ pathways along different departments for the purpose of building weekly networks. In these networks, departments act as nodes with multiple out/in-going arrows connecting other departments. Strategic departments are classified into target and critical departments. On the one hand, target departments, which in this study belong to the oncology area, correspond to those affected by new management policies whose impact is to be assessed. On the other hand, critical departments correspond to the most active departments, the hubs of the networks. Using suitable networks parameters, strategic departments are shown to be highly efficient regardless of the season, which naturally translates into a high level of service offered to patients. In addition, our results show conformance with the new objectives concerning target departments. The methodology presented is shown to be successful in evaluating the efficiency of hospital services in order to enhance process performances, and moreover, it is suitable to be implemented in healthcare management systems at a greater scale and the service industry whenever the flow of clients or customers are involved.


Complex networks in healthcare Operational efficiency Flow dynamics of patients Process mining techniques 



Authors gratefully acknowledge Carmen H. de Larramendi (MAPFRE foundation) for kindly advising this research. Authors wish to thank the staff of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra (CUN) for their assistance during this research and permission for publication. M. A. Miranda thanks Professor Stefano Boccaletti for valuable interaction during the Complex Networks Seminar held at the Department of Physics in the University of Navarra in June 2016 and for his kind support, thanks are also extended to the Department of Physics for their kind invitation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business Administration, School of Economics and Business AdministrationUniversity of NavarraPamplonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Industrial Organization, School of Engineering (TECNUN)University of NavarraSan SebastianSpain

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