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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology and Quality
Improvement

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How will the new system affect current workflows?

Implementation of a new health IT system will dramatically affect current workflows. Depending on the existing technology infrastructure, the changes will require the investment of resources and time to allow staff the opportunity to acclimate to newly developed workflows that affect both clinical and administrative processes.

Determining how a new system will affect current workflows begins with a thorough assessment of current workflows. Workflow assessments should be conducted for all areas that will be affected by the implementation of the new technology. Even if your organization has existing policies and workflows in place, do not assume that the staff is completely compliant. While conducting workflow assessments, hospitals have uncovered nursing stations making their own forms. Clinics have also discovered lag times in updating patient charts and incomplete documentation of problem and medication lists. Wide variations in workflows have also been found among providers in the same practice, so it is important to involve a large number of staff instead of relying on one to serve as a model.

A health IT project is most likely to succeed when disruptions to normal workflows are minimal. Relying on an accurate, current analysis of normal workflows is important. There are many elements of a workflow that need to be examined: the forms used, the distribution of tasks among different staff, the extent to which information is centralized or diffused, the utilization of space, and, of course, the use of technology.

A new health IT system also provides the opportunity for addressing areas that are identified as problematic in the current workflow. The analysis also may uncover ways to make a process more efficient. This, essentially, should be a goal of a health IT project - to make what you are already doing less complicated and more efficient. The principles behind the time-and-motion study approach may be instructive. Originally used to simplify industrial processes and labor, this kind of assessment focuses on how to make a given task more efficient. A thorough assessment of your organization's current workflows will identify bottlenecks or areas that will be impacted the most by your health IT project.

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Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
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