Simple Queuing Theory Tools You Can Use in Healthcare

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Patient Throughput

Jeff Johnson
Director of Management Engineering
North Colorado Medical Center

Fairly recently healthcare professionals have discovered the benefits of applying queuing theory techniques. Surprisingly there are some simple functions that have been written for Excel which allow anyone to easily and clearly apply these techniques. A couple of key areas to which queuing theory applies are throughput and staffing.

Much has been written recently about queuing theory and its powerful application in healthcare. Unfortunately the applications have been shrouded in mathematical mystery. The simple functions written for Excel by the University of Albertas School of Business allow anyone to apply the techniques for better process understanding and thus better decisions, optimizing your healthcare budget.

Staffing numbers, patient arrival rates, and patient service times are key metrics to collect for processes when using queuing theory techniques. Even if this data isnt exact you can perform what if scenarios on any combination of the metrics. The simple Excel functions are the basis for creating data tables and graphs which show the effects of changing staffing, arrival rates, and service times on utilization, wait times, and time patients spend in the system. Utilization and wait time can be estimated based on the current staffing, arrival rates and service times and then these can be varied to see the effect. Then you can determine if by changing the staffing you have acceptable utilization and wait times or if you need to focus on improving your patient service times.

These tools have been successfully applied at Banner Health hospitals in transport, ED, and EVS.