Workflow Redesign Is Crucial to Adopting a New Health IT System – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on January 20, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Todd Stansfield, Instructional Writer from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Todd Stansfield
Workflow analysis and redesign have long been touted as essential to health IT adoption. Most organizations recognize the importance of modifying current workflows to capitalize on efficiencies created by a new application and identify areas where the system must be customized to support existing workflows. Despite this recognition, there remains room for improvement. In fact, last month the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) identified the impact of new IT systems on clinical workflows as one of the biggest barriers to interoperability (ouch).

A successful redesign includes both an analysis of current workflows and desired future workflows.

Key stakeholders – direct and indirect – should take part in analyzing existing workflows. An objective third party should also be present to ask the right questions and facilitate the discussion. This team can collaborate to model important workflows, ideally in visual form to stimulate thorough analysis. To ensure an efficient and productive meeting, you should model workflows that are the most common, result in productivity losses, have both upstream and downstream consequences and involve multiple parties. The National Learning Consortium recommends focusing only on what occurs 80 percent of the time.

Once you document current workflows, you can set your sights on the future. Workflow redesign meetings are the next step; you need them to build a roadmap of activities leading up to a go-live event and beyond – from building the application to engaging and educating end users. Individuals from the original workflow analysis sessions should be included, and they should be joined by representatives from your health IT vendor (who can define the system’s capabilities) and members of your leadership team (who can answer questions and provide support).

After the initial go-live, you need to periodically perform workflow analysis and continue adjusting the roadmap to address changes to the application and processes.

Why should you spend all the time and effort to analyze and redesign workflows? Three reasons:

  1. It makes your organization proactive in your upcoming implementation and road to adoption. You’ll anticipate and avoid problems that will otherwise become bigger headaches.
  2. It’s the perfect opportunity to request customizations to adapt your application to desired workflows.
  3. It gives your staff a chance to mentally and emotionally prepare for a change to their daily habits, increasing buy-in and decreasing resistance to the switch.

Thorough and disciplined workflow redesign is an important step to adopting a new health IT application, but of course it’s not the only one. You’ll still need leadership to engage end users in the project, education that teaches learners how to use the new application to perform their workflow, performance metrics to evaluate adoption, and continual reinforcement of adoption initiatives as the application and workflows change over time.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.