Workflow Automation in Healthcare

Workflow automation in healthcare organizations is concerned with improving efficiency by automating manual and repetitive tasks. Through automation it is possible to streamline clinical workflows, remove the common bottlenecks that hamper patient flow, and achieve better resource utilization to reduce healthcare costs.

Workflow Automation in Healthcare Reduces Waste

Inefficient clinical processes in healthcare result in massive wastage of resources, which ultimately has a negative impact on patient care and increases the cost of healthcare provision. As physicians and nurses are well aware, any wasted time due to inefficient workflows and communication issues, is time that could have been spent providing care to patients.

Workflow automation in healthcare delivery organizations helps to improve ROI by eliminating wastage and achieving better resource utilization. The process can certainly be difficult, but even minor changes to clinical workflows can make a big difference and can help to clear bottlenecks that obstruct patient workflow. Organizations that have optimized their clinical workflows achieve better use of resources, which helps to drive down the cost of healthcare provision.

Spotting and Addressing Bottlenecks to Improve Patient Workflow

The journey a patient takes from admission to finally being discharged will naturally be obstructed at certain points as it is not possible to operate a healthcare facility with 100% efficiency. However, these obstructions need to be reduced. When patient workflow is hampered, hospital stays will be longer than necessary, which means bed utilization will be far from optimal. Patients will experience delays which are annoying for staff and patients alike, but they can also have a negative effect on clinical outcomes as well as hospital revenue.

Even when workflows are streamlined there will be rate-limiting steps in the patient journey that slow patient throughput. Hospitals need to spot where queues are forming and take steps to address these problematic areas. Through effective clinical workflow management, obstacles can be removed and processes streamlined which can accelerate patient throughput without having to increase staffing levels. Think about reassigning work to different members of the care team in bottleneck areas to ease the burden on employees.

Inefficient work processes impact patient throughput and tie up resources. Improvements to patient workflow can be made using automation, such as having patients use automated check-in kiosks. This eliminates the burden on administration staff and improves the patient’s treatment.

Workflow Automation in Healthcare Optimizes Clinical Communication

A massive roadblock to clinical workflows in hospitals is an ineffective communication system. Poor communication in hospitals is common, as many are still reliant on outmoded communication systems such as pagers, faxes, email, voicemail and landlines. Research suggests a hospital doctor typically wastes around 45 minutes every day as a result of ineffective communication systems. According to a study published in the Journal of Healthcare Management, communication inefficiencies cost an average 500-bed hospital over $4 million each year.

Communication problems can negatively affect patient outcomes. Nurses and doctors will be hindered as they attempt to make the right decision as they do not have all the information they need. The information is often available, it is just not available to the right person, at the right time.  A Joint Commission study showed 60% of medical mistakes occur due to communication problems.

Proper management of clinical workflows is crucial, but in order to get the best possible ROI and make real gains in efficiency it is necessary to replace older and inefficient communication methods. Many hospitals are still dependent on one-way channels of communication like pagers which do not support clinical workflows in healthcare. Surprisingly, in the United States 25% of hospitals still use pagers and 90% still use fax machines. These technologies once were useful for communicating in hospitals, but they have no place in a modern, efficient healthcare system as they simply do not make for efficient workflows.

The solution is to implement a modern communication system based on text messaging. HIPAA compliant text messaging platforms – often called clinical communication and collaboration platforms – can be used by clinicians to quickly obtain the answers they need. With text messages, in contrast to pagers, context is added to each communication which allows clinicians to prioritize call backs. Alerts can be generated the second test results are in through integrations with EHRs. Notifications are sent directly to clinicians’ mobile devices and quick answers can be obtained without leaving a patient’s bedside. By pairing the platform with the scheduling system, it is easy to find the correct shift owner, such as an on-call cardiologist.

Healthcare organizations that have replaced their outdated communication system with a modern clinical communication and collaboration platform have reported major improvements in efficiency and staff morale. They have also seen measurable improvements in patient throughput, bed optimization, faster transfer times, fewer mistakes, and better patient satisfaction scores.