The Importance of Effective Healthcare Workflow Management

Healthcare workflows can be highly complex, which can make healthcare workflow management a difficult task. While hospitals and clinics will have developed policies, procedures, and workflows to ensure that all necessary tasks are completed and patient safety is assured, there are often inefficiencies in clinical and non-clinical staff workflows which mean less than optimal resource utilization.

It is not possible for hospitals and clinics to operate at 100% efficiency, but through effective healthcare workflow management, resource utilization can be improved, the quality of care can be increased, and through the gains in efficiency, it may be possible to increase the number of patients seen each day to improve revenue and increase profits.

Poor Healthcare Workflows Negatively Affects Employees, Patients, and Profits

Healthcare providers of all sizes can face challenges with workflow management, but the challenges are much greater in large healthcare organizations with much more complicated workflows. While small healthcare providers may be able to get away with poor workflow management without major consequences, those problems are amplified as medical practices grow.

Informal methods used to keep a medical practice operational may work well most of the time, but they tend to fail at moments of stress, causing bottlenecks to occur or operations to come to a standstill. At best, they will just cause delays, but those delays can be felt through the entire organization, causing major productivity losses. Less work will be performed, patient flow will be slowed, employee job satisfaction will drop, as will patient satisfaction scores. Worse, poor management of healthcare workflows can impact quality of care and patient safety could be put at risk.

Management of Healthcare Workflows Does Not Work in Isolation

When attempting to improve healthcare workflow management it may be tempting to look at each workflow in isolation. Workflows will have been developed for each role to achieve all necessary tasks, and in isolation they may seem logical and effective. However, there is a continuum of interrelated processes in healthcare with multiple connections and interdependencies. Workflows may not work efficiently in practice due to these interdependencies, and there may be conflicts of priorities between different departments.

When attempting to improve healthcare workflow management it is important to look at the how each workflow impacts each other and seek feedback from many different departments to ensure that each workflow is working well with others, especially when considering making workflow changes. A small change to one workflow to improve efficiency could be easily negated by the impact it has on other healthcare workflows.

Healthcare Workflow Management is Easier with Workflow Software

In order to improve healthcare workflow management and operational efficiency, repetitive, manual tasks need to be automated as far as possible. This is best achieved with healthcare workflow software. Healthcare workflow software is concerned with automating manual repetitive tasks and reducing the admin burden on staff and the potential for errors.

Healthcare workflow software is used to automate a wide range of processes in healthcare, from patient admissions, to approvals, documentation, information transfer, filling prescriptions, billing, and compliance. The software helps improve the efficiency of workflows, enhances productivity, and allow healthcare workers to achieve more in less time. The software helps to reduce paperwork, makes collaboration easier, improves efficiency and helps to improve the accuracy of information transfer. With the right information technology and software, healthcare workflow management will be far less challenging.

Good Healthcare Workflow Management Reduces Readmissions and Improves Patient Outcomes

When workflows are not properly managed there is potential for mistakes to be made that can have severe consequences for patients. One of the main points of failure where medical errors occur is information transfer. If important information about a patient is not effectively communicated during shift handovers, or vital information about a patient is not provided to a physician, incorrect treatment decisions could be made, and treatment could be delayed. When information is not effectively communicated to patients there will be an increased chance of readmission. Complete, accurate, up to date information is critical in healthcare, so formal processes for information transfer are essential.

Improving Communication in Healthcare

The use of information technology can greatly improve workflow management and reduce the potential for medical mistakes. One of the most important technologies in healthcare to be introduced in recent years provides a long-awaited replacement for outdated, inefficient, and error-prone communication systems.

Outdated communication tools in healthcare do not make for efficient workflows. Pagers are notoriously inefficient communication tools, yet are still used in 1 in 4 hospitals. When a physician needs to be contacted, a page is sent with little information and no context. The physician must make a call to find out why the page has been sent and a game of phone tag often ensues, where the physician cannot reach the right person and vice versa. Effectively managing healthcare workflows is difficult when modern, efficient communication tools are not used.

The solution to this problem is simple: Upgrading to a clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platform. These modern communication tools greatly improve communication efficiency. The text-message based platforms work in a similar fashion to WhatsApp and Skype, with enhanced privacy and security features to ensure compliance with HIPAA. The platforms support two-way communication, text, voice, and video calls, and the sharing of medical images and other important files. They allow all members of the care team to communicate effectively and can also be used for telehealth for patient follow ups, helping to reduce readmissions.

These tools are invaluable for improving information transfer during shift handovers. Message threads about a patient can simply be transferred, ensuring an accurate record of information is provided to new shift owners. The platforms can be used to coordinate care effectively, helping with healthcare workflow management and improving resource utilization.

Summary

Through the use of workflow management software, improvements to communication systems, and the fine tuning of workflows, healthcare providers can improve the standard of care provided to patients, accelerate patient flow, improve patient throughput, and achieve much better use of their resources. Effective healthcare workflow management is likely to see improvements to patient satisfaction scores, happier staff, better patient outcomes, and increased revenue and profits.