2019 STA Annual Meeting Engineering Challenge - Quantum Scheduling




Most anesthesiologists have, at some point in their career, been subject to the need to make assignments of staff to transition from daytime to evening coverage. While this is highly dependent on culture, three features are nearly universal:

  1. Minimize the number of handoffs
  2. Place providers in their area of expertise
  3. There is a relief order

This task is typically left to an individual, the board runner, who applies experience and judgment to the problem.

This class of tasks is an example of a constrained optimization problem, and there is considerable interest in computational solutions for these. A recent development in this area is the use of quantum computing. For a background, visit: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-quantum-algorithms-optimization-problems.html

Let’s consider a very simple problem

Four anesthesiologists with relief order A > B > C > D

Three rooms with predicted end times of 1 > 2 > 3

A is in room 3, B in 1, C in 2, and D shows up for night duty. This can be easily solved on paper if we know the weights for the three rules. Now scale the number of rooms up to 30, throw in a few anesthesiologists who don’t do neuro or thoracic, the ability to staff solo, 2 residents, or 3-4 CRNAs, and the problem quickly becomes difficult.  So let’s throw some liquid helium on the problem.

As always, the point of the Engineering Challenge is to educate the membership about a new technology, have fun, and maybe change the world. I’m more interested in how you would solve the problem than seeing a final solution, but the members in attendance are the final arbiters of who does the best job.

The rules:

  1. At least one member of the team should be a trainee – student, resident, fellow, etc.
  2. It is permissible to present via Skype (or equivalent video chat)






Jeffrey Mandel, MD, MS

Past Participants

2018 Engineering Challenge Participants:

Priya Ramaswamy, MD, M Eng, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Deepak Agarwal, DO, MPH, Cleveland Clinic

Mark Korenke, MD, University of Michigan

Giuseppe Grossi, B Eng, Sickkids Hospital

2017 Engineering Challenge Participants:

Rami Saab, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto

Nirav Bhasar, MD, University of Miami

Elie Sarraf, MDCM, B Eng, University of Vermont

Ryan Durk, MD, Washington University, Saint Louis

Krithika Anand, MD, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

2016 Engineering Challenge Winner:

Ali Jalali, MD, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

2015 Engineering Challenge Winner:

Hassanpour Ali, MD, Temple University

2014 Engineering Challenge Winners:

  • First Place: Nicholas McGill, University of Pennsylvania
  • Second Place: Ryan Durk, Washington University Saint Louis
  • Third Place: Goeto Dantes, University of Florida