|The Health Record Review
by Jeff Rowe, Editor
Posted on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 - 09:55 am
In any extended policy discussion, topics have a tendency of rising to the top of the attention list, then slipping back down.
But some topics, particularly those which at first don’t seem too important, keep rearing their heads.
Take “workflow” as it relates to the development and implementation of EHRs. It’s never been as sexy as meaningful use or interoperability, but it persists, and in persisting it makes clear how important understanding office workflow is to the entire effort to transition the healthcare sector to EHRs.
As this researcher sees it, “Properly conducted, workflow analysis reveals important information about what occurs in an organization. Analyzing key processes and determining the tasks involved in completing them helps organizations to eliminate redundancies and identify activities requiring further optimization. Conceivably, workflow data taken from a representative cross-section of similar organizations could prove to be useful for software designers. For example, having workflow data from 500 primary care internal medicine practices should provide invaluable information to software designers concerning clinician work habits and information needs that could be mapped directly to EHR software features, functions, and workflows. It seems reasonable to assume that this type of information would be helpful for other healthcare initiatives such as meaningful use and patient safety as well.”
In his eyes, “the lack of granularity in workflow analyses used primarily for selection/implementation is the major obstacle preventing their use in guiding software design and usability testing.”
As an observer, what strikes us most is how the focus on workflow as key to the success of EHRs alters the perception of EHRs from being primarily a record-keeping enterprise to being a technology that more pervasively changes the way healthcare systems work.
If that’s true, then it seems worth taking the time to understanding how workflow works, as our researcher is doing, and how getting workflow right will lead to making the highest and best use of EHRs and other new health IT.
Photo courtesy of cote via Creative Commons