Process-Aware Workflow Management Systems With Healthcare Characteristics: Process-Aware HIT

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Evident throughout this article is a tension between straightforward, predictable, repetitive, high volume episodes of patient care versus more complex, less predictable, one-of- a-kind episodes, each of which is unique and therefore infrequent, but all of which taken together constitute a significant and important part of the ecology of health care. Traditional workflow management systems excel at what has been called ‘straight through processing’ (STP) in the banking and finance industries. For example, an order to sell shares in a publicly traded stock should ideally happen in a very short interval (that is, before the stock price changes materially). STP seeks to eliminate the human element that slows down stock trades, to only rely on humans for handling exceptional circumstances, and to reduce exceptional circumstances to an absolute minimum (if not altogether!). However, in health care exceptions happen all the time. Medical care is exception rich because abnormal states are, in effect, normally encountered occurrences.

Healthcare processes, and especially core patient-driven processes, are rife with exceptions—from the appointment no-show to the abnormal laboratory value to the undeniably unique history of present illness. And yet, these are in a way predictable and therefore categories and rules and workflows can be defined to facilitate execution of core clinical and administrative processes. Workflow management in health care, especially in and around the EHR, will be workflow with healthcare characteristics. While this may seem obvious, it also means that workflow management systems technology and concepts borrowed from other industries must necessarily be considerably adapted to become successful components of the next generation of electronic health records.


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Take me to the next blog post in this series! The Future of EHR Workflow Management Systems: Process-Aware HIT.

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