Posted By Ashok Mathur On October 28, 2015

Why Public Health Departments should focus on improving workflow as well as EHR implementation

What is workflow and why should you care? Over the past few years, public health agencies have seen ongoing reduction in funding while their operational costs keep going up. Sure, lobbying and educating legislators is an important part of public health agency leadership role. However, in current national environment, at best one can hope to keep funding flat (and not decline). Operational costs are going up by at least 3% per year so there is need to gain efficiencies of 3% per year assuming flat funding. Given this environment, a lot of local health departments are turning to technology to improve efficiencies while providing streamlined care.

So what is workflow and why does it matter? We all know in manufacturing, there is an assembly line and each person has a specific task to do and in a specific sequence. The assembly line ensures that quality product is made consistently in an efficient manner with no wasted effort. Similarly, in a local health department, one can imagine a patient moving on an assembly line during a visit. If we were to map the flow of a patient (or workflow) in a clinic, we will see that an appointment is made first, followed by check in, financial eligibility, nursing, immunization, check out, billing and so on. This is a workflow and by implementing the right EHR with the right workflow, one can easily streamline patient flow, cut down patient wait time, provide consistent quality of care and improve efficiencies.

Technology has proven to provide results in other industries and a lot of local health departments are taking advantage of federal CMS incentives to deploy Electronic Health Record software. 2016 is the last year to participate in the CMS incentive program. While there is a real sense of urgency to move forward and not miss out on the incentive $s, one has to ensure that the EHR meets your needs and truly improves efficiencies.

To maximize benefits from Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation, it is important to focus on improving workflow rather than focus on software itself. What that means is that it is not just IT folks who are responsible for implementing the EHR; other stakeholders including nursing, billing and administrative staff need to be engaged from day one i.e. implementing EHR is not just an IT project. To make sure that you gain the efficiency you need from the EHR, make sure you focus on three legs of stool, i.e. product, process and people. Conducting a workflow analysis can be difficult; will your EHR vendor help you perform it to help improve your workflow?

About Ashok Mathur

Ashok is passionate about public health. He works collaboratively with public health departments, sharing his insights on the benefits of app technology and cloud services for EHR use. He is the CEO and co-founder of Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.