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Work-fl ow Management

The elephant in the room is administrative work fl ow

How one hospital reduced administrative-related costs by 70 percent through work-fl ow automation. By Scott Fuller


or years, hospital IT departments have been responding to the need to automate clinical systems, such as electronic health records (EHR) and computer physician order entry (CPOE), throughout their facilities. Without a doubt, the digitization of clinical documents is a boon – both for quality of care and increased effi ciency. But, as many have already discovered, there is much more ground to be gained through automation. EHR, CPOE and related systems streamline and signifi cantly reduce clinical paperwork. However, these solutions nevertheless leave the rest of the healthcare enterprise – ev- erything from human resources, accounting and billing to pur- chasing – untouched. Simply put, clinical systems do little to reduce the overwhelming burden of administrative work fl ow and ignore the estimated 30 percent of hospital staff time dedicated to manually process- ing administrative forms. Administrative work fl ow is the new elephant in the room. Most experts agree that hos- pitals used to be nearly a decade behind other industries in the implementation of technology.

Scott Fuller is director, work-fl ow engineering, FormFast. For more information on FormFast solutions: www.rsleads. com/010ht-203

While that gap is closing in the clinical areas, it is, unfortunately, widening in administrative processes automated in other industries nearly 15 years ago.

One Texas hospital exposes the elephant Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is an acute care facility located in Edinburg, Texas. Over the past six years, the facility has experienced dramatic growth. From modest beginnings as an 83-bed outpatient sur- gery center, Doctors Hospital has expanded to 506 beds, offering a full range of medical and surgical ser- vices. The hospital currently maintains a wound care center, a rehab center, a women’s hospital, a cancer

30 October 2010

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is an acute care facility located in Edinburg, Texas.

center, a behavioral center, a new pediatric medical tower and a newly expanded emergency room with 25 beds, including four fast-track beds. Such signifi cant growth, while a benefi t for the surrounding community, has brought about new chal- lenges, including IT and work-fl ow issues. While the ratio of clinical staff to patients has improved, there are fewer employees for non-clinical duties. Prior to the hospital’s expansion, the IT department employed six staff members. Now, six years later, the IT staff hovers around 40 people; facilities of similar capacity, however, often maintain an IT department of nearly double that size.

Because the facility’s Renaissance campus com- prises many buildings, work fl ow is diffi cult to manage and track. In the past, form routing was often bottle- necked, because the facility was reliant on paper-based processes and no formal processes existed to track paper trails.

The need for change Doctor’s Hospital was in the process of evaluating EHR products, but leadership recognized that most


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