The patient bed assignment problem consists of managing, in the best possible way, a set of beds with particular features and assigning them to a set of patients with special requirements. This assignment problem can be seen an optimization problem, of which the intended aims are usually to minimize the number of internal movements within a unit and to maximize bed usage according to the levels of criticality of the patients, among others. The usual approaches for solving this problem follow a traditional model based on the constraint programming paradigm, mainly using hard constraints. However, in real-life problems, constraints that should ideally be satisfied are often violated. In this paper, we present a new model for the patient bed assignment problem based on the minimum sum of unsatisfied constraints. This technique enables the consideration of soft constraints in the potential solutions that exhibit the best performance. The aim is to find the assignment that minimizes a weighted sum of the unsatisfied constraints. To this end, we use an autonomous binary version of the bat algorithm, which is an optimization technique inspired by the bio-sonar behaviour of microbats, to find the best set of potential solutions without requiring any expert user knowledge to achieve an efficient solution process. To validate our proposal, we use our model to solve problem instances based on data from several hospitals, and we perform a detailed comparative statistical analysis with a traditional constraint programming solver and several well-known optimization algorithms, including the classic bat algorithm. Promising results show that our approach is capable of efficiently solving 30 instances with decreased solution times.
- Autonomous bat optimization
- Constraint optimization problem
- Constraint programming
- Dynamic weighted model
- Patient bed assignment problem