What is workflow? Why is it important? How do I measure components of workflow?

If you were asked to picture or describe what constitutes workflow in a clinical setting, what comes to mind? Doctors coordinating care with their team? Nurses administering critical medications and providing emotional support to patients? Or maybe, it’s less obvious actors like the pharmacy staff or hospital administrators making sure providers are able to perform their job functions? All of these answers are correct. Workflow is more than just a series of sequential steps in a process. Workflow within a clinical environment is a web comprised of work activities, being performed by people, interacting with technologies, executing tasks within their work environments, which are embedded within organizations. Any HIT implementation has the potential to fundamentally change workflows. It is paramount to take a holistic approach and consider all of these factors when conducting workflow analysis, rather than focusing on one or two of these elements in order to have a successful HIT implementation.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of presenting my research at the Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center’s annual conference. The purpose of my talk was to give an overview of my work conducting implementation workflow analysis in regards to mPOWEr’s pilot implementation at the University of Washington’s Center for Reconstructive Surgery. Attendees learned about how workflow is comprised of many different components interacting with one another. Then I discussed why workflow analysis is important through the analysis of two case studies. These examples highlight how unanticipated consequences can occur during an implementation and can be minimized with proper workflow analysis. Finally, I then presented common workflow analysis tools and methods to facilitate an HIT implementation using mPOWEr’s pilot implementation as an example. The slides are available on ResearchGate and if you’d would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact us.