One of the best and most underutilized uses for a takt time study is for the creation of accurate staffing models.

What is Takt Time?

Takt time is the rate at which you need to complete a product or service in order to meet customer demand. It derives from the German word, Taktzeit, which is often referred to as the heartbeat or drumbeat of production.

Most often used in manufacturing environments, takt time optimizes manufacturing capacity to meet demand without the need to keep an abundance of inventory.  See the traditional takt time formula below.
Formula for determining takt time However, it can additionally be used in healthcare to determine how to staff a clinic to best meet customer demand (patients scheduled per hour) and not have excessive wait times.

hospital waiting room

How Do You Apply Takt Time to Healthcare Staffing?

In order to create a healthcare staffing model, it is necessary to combine the takt time calculation, and a cycle time specific to the area you are wanting to staff. Below is a breakdown of the information needed to complete this model.

  1. Find the total available production time, represented by:
    • The hours of operation for the clinics or area you are staffing
    • The time and duration of staff breaks
  2. Find the average customer demand you need, represented by:
    • The average number of patients scheduled in the clinic.
    • The scheduled arrival time.
      Note: Generally, customer demand data can easily be pulled from the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). It does not have to be a detailed account. You simply need to know how many patients on average arrive each hour that the clinic is in operation.)
  3. Find a good cycle time for the staff specific to the model being created. For example, in the lab, this may pertain to the phlebotomist, whereas in the clinic, it could be RNs or other  clinical/clerical roles. In this instance, cycle time represents how long it takes the specified group to complete their work for one patient. Most clinic roles have benchmarks for how long it takes to see one patient from start to finish.

Calculating Takt Time

Once all the necessary data has been collected, it is relatively simple to calculate the staffing model and plot it on a graph. This method assists you in making more informed decisions.

For healthcare purposes, takt time is calculated by taking each hour and dividing it by the number of patients who arrive during that time frame. For example:

60-minutes / 6 patients = 10-minute takt time

Next, establish the staff necessary to meet that demand by dividing the cycle time for the process by the takt time. For example:

30-minute cycle time / 10-minute takt time = 3 employees to meet demand

*You can also increase the accuracy of your model by accounting for scheduled breaks. Instead of 60 minutes for available production time, you may want to use 30 minutes if the staff is on a 30-minute lunch break while patients are still arriving at the clinic.

Staffing Analytics – Use Cases for Takt Time

Taking the model a step further, it can be used to identify certain staffing analytics. Once a staffing model is created with takt time, there are many options to discover and entertain.

This model can recommend the number of staff necessary to have no wait time for all patients. If this is too aggressive, you may allow for some wait time by adjusting the cycle time up to an appropriate level.

In addition, an analysis may also show there is a need to level the scheduling to plan for a steady stream of patients throughout the day instead of the majority arriving early in the morning.

Lastly, this model can be used to determine how to keep the same patient wait times with less staff. Using the same sample data as before, you can troubleshoot ways to decrease the 30-minute cycle time to a 20-minute cycle time, which would allow for the same amount of work with 1 less employee. For example:

Replacing the 30-minute cycle time with a 20-minute cycle time/the original 10 minute takt time = 2 employees to meet demand.

Putting Takt Time and Data to Use

Overall, this model is designed to be straightforward to create, easily understandable, and adaptable to a wide variety of situations.

In my experience, a takt time staffing model is an excellent tool for creating staffing analytics based on scheduling, patient demand, and current clinic processes. I suggest using this powerful tool for deciding what to change, and by how much to leverage current clinic processes and staffing capabilities.

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