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IT workflow management can help ensure accurate healthcare data and save lives

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  By Hal Clark and Dan Trevino,  August 28, 2012

In today’s hospitals and clinics, IT workflow management solutions play a key role in enabling and supporting the accurate, yet secure, flow of data medical personnel rely on to make critical decisions affecting the lives of patients.

Ensuring the accurate, yet secure, flow of data is crucial to today’s hospitals and clinics, where critical decisions affecting the lives of patients are made daily. Medical personnel rely on the availability of correct, complete and up-to-date information upon which to base decisions. Having important data – such as test results or medical history – available to the right personnel at the right time can, in some cases, literally make the difference between life and death. IT plays a key role in enabling and supporting the workflows that make this happen.

The right prescription for processes
Hospitals are increasingly adopting enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, including records management and workflow management systems. Most medical systems have files on patient records, activities and workflows. Depending on the laws in each state, the information may go through a series of checks where the data is reviewed and verified. In an ideal situation where all systems are connected, misdiagnoses based on incorrect or missing information would be unlikely to occur, because notes would indicate such vital information as, “This test is part of this record.”

Yet sometimes these solutions may be adopted without sufficient IT processes in place to support the workflows that do inventories and perform configuration compliance. These processes, enabled by technology, need to ensure that when the scheduled processing runs at night, the service associated with that process is configured correctly before the scheduled process runs. If additional records about a patient exist, but are not updated properly because the service was not operating properly, then dire consequences can result for the patient. This could impact the reputation of the healthcare provider and may result in penalties.

How can hospitals achieve the full potential of ERP solutions? They can leverage workflow management solutions based on business service management (BSM), which simplifies and automates IT processes to connect business services to IT services. For change compliance, the solution could ensure that the applications are running on systems that are in the correct update status and are intact, have necessary protection for patient identity, are connected and configured correctly, and that predecessor processes within IT are completed before the scheduled processing is run.

The medical system must have its own application process and systems management work profiles. It must have the policies to understand what is considered valid data, when that valid data should be present and when it’s not there.

A systems management solution can act as an automated check in this process. It won’t run a scheduled process unless it knows the resources are there. It will trigger other processes to put the resources in place or give alerts if certain conditions aren’t met. It may be part of a solution that makes sure that data gets moved from one place to the other as planned. Examples include edited medical records that are ready to upload into the main database or need to go to regional or global repositories and are transferred to preclude negative consequences that may result if the transaction does not occur in a timely and accurate manner.

The system should be functioning based on the policies you’ve designed. Monitoring determines the health and capacity to perform. Service level management solutions grade this against the window of availability/performance contracts for the time the job needs to run.

It’s also important to focus on process assurance. Workflows should enforce process steps, documentation and advancement gates, including verifying that before a job runs that certain activities will happen.

By monitoring required infrastructure resources within the workflow, you can determine whether applications are functioning healthily. You can also make sure that patient files actually get to the right place at the right time or that the system is available when somebody needs to look for a key piece of information in a file.

Accurate, complete patient data
In a healthcare setting, lives depend on the accuracy, completeness and availability of patient data. Workflows must assure that the systems, applications and infrastructure around that data are consistently available. Technology can help IT manage workflows more efficiently and effectively, ensuring the quality and availability of healthcare data when it is needed most.

About the authors
Hal Clark is a senior manager of solutions marketing in the BMC Atrium team, focusing on BMC Atrium Orchestrator, BSM dashboards and analytics, as well as service level management in BSM solutions. He has been heavily involved in data center automation, cloud computing and service value management initiatives at BMC.

Dan Trevino, a senior product marketing manager for BMC Software, provides essential support to the IT Business Management initiative and suite of IT Business Management product offerings. Trevino has over 25 years in IT and is well versed in both process management and systems management areas.

For more information on BMC Software, go to www.bmc.com.


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