EHR Workflow Is A Series Of Steps, Consuming Resources, Achieving Goals

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Let’s start with the basics. I have looked at literally hundreds of definitions of workflow, some of which would fill multiple PowerPoint slides. This is my favorite definition, because I made it up: “A series of steps, consuming resources, achieving a goal.” If you’ve ever written out a workflow on a napkin, labeled boxes with little arrows to explain workflow to someone else, I’m sure you’re familiar with that. Consuming resources; each workflow step requires a widget from inventory or the time of some user or some access to some other system that’s talking to and it consumes these resources; it can’t perceive without those resources, but it also costs something. The amount of time the user spends interacting with, say a data entry screen is part of that. Finally, the workflow achieves a goal. That goal is the benefit of the workflow.

What we’ve connected up here is a series of steps to cost and benefit. If the cost and the benefit change, if the economics of the workflow change, you should be able to change the workflow. Unfortunately, many workflows and health IT and many EHRs are relatively frozen and that’s one of the sterling qualities that workflow technology brings to EHRs and health IT. It makes it easy to change the workflow when contexts change in order to make the users happier and more effective and efficient.

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