Thought Leadership

Why Workflow Matters in Healthcare

In many ways, a busy hospital is a nightmare scenario for workflow. Multiple shift changes, scores of specialists, various software systems, medical devices that operate in silos and a hectic work environment — it’s about as steep of a challenge for a truly seamless workflow solution as you can imagine.

That is why medical workflow software that actually works is a game-changer.

To understand why workflow is so important in healthcare, first let’s look at the challenges.

Splintered Software

Between electronic medical records systems, diagnostics software, documentation programs and billing technology, the medical environment is a complex web of software systems that often don’t speak the same language.

According to the Center for Medical Interoperability, full interoperability of medical devices would save the healthcare system more than $30 billion a year.

Device-Specific Solutions

Many medical devices come with proprietary software that only works with one specific family of devices. This further splinters the software environment of a hospital and requires further integrations and work-arounds.

Medical imaging has been a chief offender in this category, often adding stand-alone PACs — picture archiving and communication systems — to an already complex software environment.

Uncoordinated Attempts at Coordinated Care

Coordinated care only works when information is shared seamlessly and effectively. As new specialists and care providers enter the patient care picture, they must be informed and up-to-speed to deliver the level of coordinated care patients deserve.

Coordinated care is especially important in specialized settings like behavioral health, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. According to the study, 67 percent of individuals with behavioral health disorders do not receive the care that they need, but that issue typically improves when their care is integrated into the primary care setting.

Incomplete Information Transfer

As patients move from department to department, their information and billing information must move with them. This information transfer becomes increasingly difficult as multiple software systems become involved.

According to a Health Affairs study, fewer than 50 percent of health systems report that they are integrating information.

Human Behavior

When technology and software is not intuitive and frictionless, doctors, nurses and clinicians naturally develop work-arounds that can short-circuit hospital protocols, leading to gaps in medical information, lost billing data and incomplete patient records.

“Workflow concerns can lead to failure to adopt new technologies. A study of electronic prescribing systems standards finds that many of the electronic standards are adequate but provider adoption is low because the systems do not fit into workflow,” wrote Carol Cain and Saira Haque in Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses.

Now, let’s look at the promise of medical workflow software that actually works.

Software Programmers Who Understand Hospital Workflow

Software programmers often live in a world of code that rarely coincides with the real world. Adapting software to the complex medical world is an even taller task. High-functioning medical software comes from a team with both in-depth knowledge of hospital workflows and superior development execution.

Software Built for Integration, not Device-Specific Function

Many critical roadblocks for hospital workflow come down to companies designing software as a siloed add-on to their medical device offering. The software only works with their device, making for costly, clunky and problematic integrations. A true medical workflow demands software built for the most seamless medical outcomes — and that means programs that work across devices and integrate seamlessly with established medical software ecosystems.

Patient-Focused Care

Workflow should be all about the patient. Building a system that delivers better medical outcomes is the goal. Workflow solutions that stay focused on the patient — delivering better diagnostics without wasting precious minutes on unnecessary or cumbersome workflow details — should guide every workflow solution. Unfortunately, many are built to address business and technology concerns before the patient is even considered.

Frost and Sullivan Research shows that in 2016, 10 percent of diagnostic imaging procedures were reimbursed as part of bundled payments, while in 2020, 50 percent will be part of bundled payments.

Good Information at Physicians’ Fingertips Instantly

Good medical care runs on good information. The more information instantly available, the better. The Holy Grail of workflow is to have all the information you need instantly available when you need it — no time-consuming manual data queries and no cumbersome technology integrations. Workflow that prioritizes data in a streamlined, accessible and intuitive solution eliminates many of the headaches health care workers currently face, benefiting patients and the same health care works often teetering on the edge of burnout because of unnecessary workflow hurdles.

True Coordinated Care, No Confusion

Coordinated care simply does not work without a workflow solution that allows primary care physicians, specialists and nurses to all review the most pertinent patient information available. When this process is bogged down in multiple software systems and unwieldy data processes, vital information falls through the cracks.

Optimizing a healthcare system’s workflow is a process that involves clinicians, IT administrators and patient advocates. But it can be accelerated by healthcare systems that partner with medical device and software companies that embrace the same vision, working hard on their end to deliver solutions to the complex workflow environment that takes an all-hands-on-deck effort to optimize.