Vol. 12 •Issue 2 • Page 10
Formulas Help Determine Staffing Needs
Medical transcription (MT) managers are routinely challenged to justify their staffing needs but are often unable to provide the data requested of them. Transcription volumes and productions are easily tracked on a daily basis; here is one example of a quick and easy way to use the data at your fingertips to estimate daily MT staffing requirements.
Begin by setting simple mechanisms to gather input and output. If data gathering is cumbersome, the process will be too time consuming and not effective. The focus should be on daily “dictation in” and estimating staffing levels to complete the work with the goal of same-day turnaround times. If a digital dictation system is used, it should be possible to automate a management report that will provide daily input and daily output results or even dump them to a file for easy data manipulation. The longer the time period that the data are gathered, the more reliable the averaged results will be; however, general estimates can be made from as few as seven days and adjusted as more data become available.
Excel is the easiest program for creating a quick spreadsheet that will display the data and allow formulas and calculations to be easily manipulated. Set up a chart with days of the week heading the columns and report types heading the rows (I chose to break volumes out by work type to look for patterns). A simple version would display just input and output values by day. A more complex version could display input and output by the hour—it depends on the detail that is desired, the data available, time and your comfort level with statistical manipulations.
As time goes by, record the corresponding date, day of week and the total reports dictated as well as the total reports transcribed. It does not make a significant difference as to what measurement is used (lines, minutes, seconds, documents, etc.) as long as the measurement is consistently applied and easily tracked. For the example displayed, I estimated line counts based on the number of dictated reports on that day. For Monday, the total input in number of dictations was 79. Your average may be different, but in our office the average document length is 57 lines. Therefore, 79 reports multiplied by 57 lines equals 4,503 total estimated lines for Monday. Applying average production calculations to the total estimated lines will suggest staffing re-quirements. Identifying and tracking output (not displayed) against dictation input will show the gaps that currently result from staffing variances and will ultimately suggest when additional resources could be utilized. In the example displayed, a part time FTE (0.5 full time equivalent) would be needed on Monday (4.6) vs. Tuesday’s volume requirements, which are less at 3.9.
Using the rules of statistics, the more Monday’s data that is averaged into the Monday formula, the more accurate the estimated line count becomes. Of course fluctuations will always exist, but over time, they become relatively predictable. From this basic concept, data can be compounded, averaged and manipulated to provide a variety of detailed analyses. They can lead to extensively detailed forecasting models such as moving averages based on the season or to calculating the mean trend over time. Be conservative with production estimates to allow for unplanned absences or system problems.
Once data are available for an entire month, calculate the average number of reports dictated each day. Note interesting trends that might result, such as decreased dictation over the weekend and perhaps increased volumes before a holiday. Medical transcription is a wonderful science that lends itself equally to the science of medicine, the art of language, statistical data analysis and the ever-changing technology of computing. *
Jefferson Howe is transcription manager at Maine Medical Center, Portland.