Workfl ow Management
Finding leaks in hospital workfl ow
The biggest problems can be found where you least expect them. By Scott Fuller
y now it is common knowledge that digitizing and managing workfl ow electronically can offer a healthcare organization signifi - cant savings. But while the benefi ts of au- tomation are generally focused on clinical information, a hospital’s administrative practices will also display noteworthy improvements from a workfl ow system. Hospital clinical processes have, in many cases, already been automated by hospital information system (HIS) software. Various clinical workfl ows are embedded into EHRs and similar systems because vendors have designed their prod- ucts to help providers meet meaningful- use mandates.
While further examining and automating clinical work-
fl ow can offer cost and effi ciency improvements, a focus on the automation of hospital administrative processes will result in even greater fi nancial impact. Many hospitals’ support and revenue cycle departments are buried in age- old paper-based workfl ows. While they get the job done, these manual processes, dependant on legible handwriting, accurate forms and the slow passage of the interoffi ce mail cart, are full of leaks – wasting both time and money. Flaws associated with standard, manual admin- istrative workflow can be uncovered through collabo- ration between various de- partments. Delays resulting from complex forms, mail
Scott Fuller is the director of workfl ow engineering for FormFast.
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cart delays and requisitions that require multiple signa- tures – and issues caused by forms that were never fi lled out correctly to begin with – may all be fi xed through an automated workfl ow process. Leaks in manual workfl ows are plentiful, but they are hard to recognize by employees who have been caught up in these ineffi cient processes for years. Therefore, it is critical to collaborate with various members of hospital staff to see where ineffi ciencies lie. For example, the inter- offi ce mail carrier will be able to quickly name the forms
14 March 2011
that are regularly re-routed and stalled due to incorrect information, and which departments suffer from the most signifi cant paper glut. Similarly, revenue cycle and admis- sions personnel will be able to describe the snags in their departments’ workfl ow.
One hospital recently examined its PAR (personnel action request) form and associated workfl ow, for in- stance, after it stumbled across an employee who spent the majority of her day proofreading and correcting these forms as they were delivered to her department. Because department directors fi lled out these forms by hand, they would often use an employee’s nickname or transpose a work identifi cation number. Once the PAR process became automated, the form was completed on screen. Employee names were chosen from a drop-down list and all the pertinent fi elds were automatically fi lled throughout the form, as each selection was linked to HR data. The form was then automatically and immediately routed to the next person in the workfl ow order without interruption. Ineffi cient workfl ows may be diffi cult to identify, espe- cially if they have been in use for many years. Automating leaky administrative hospital processes, however, can do more than simply increase effi ciency. The time saved and resources that are productively repurposed may also result in near-immediate return on investment.
HMT HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY www.healthmgttech.com