Knowledge Expansion

3 ways to improve healthcare workflow

Insight Article

HIPAA

Electronic Health Records

Practice Efficiency

Brenda Hopkins
Busy health systems often contain complex workflow variations and transitions, from appointment scheduling and authorizations to referrals and transitions for additional service. Barriers to efficient workflows include poor usable design of technology for documentation and communications, as well as resistance to change by providers and staff. Inefficient communication and coordination are primary barriers to quality patient outcomes. Efficient workflow enablement and throughput are opportunities to improve operations and clinical care. 

For 78% of healthcare quality experts, improved clinical workflow and efficiency are the keys to boosting health information technology quality, according to a recent American Society for Quality (ASQ) survey

Overcoming workflow challenges isn't easy, particularly when considering industry regulations such as HIPAA. However, by tackling workflow management one area at a time — rather than trying to solve everything overnight — payers and providers can implement more efficient workflow practices that contribute to improved job satisfaction and productivity among care teams, better patient experiences, and improved financial outcomes. 

So, what can healthcare executives and senior managers do to improve workflow? 

#1 - Adopt EHR best practices

Nothing divides a room like an EHR debate. While EHR adoption continues to increase in the U.S., it’s far from being universally welcomed. Sections of the healthcare community see EHRs as more of a hindrance than a help — and a costly one at that. Love them or hate them, however, given the carrot-and-stick incentives of Meaningful Use and now Promoting Interoperability, EHRs are here to stay.   

Health systems leaders are challenged to ensure technology investments are integrated to support the best patient experience possible and aid administrative processes and optimize workflows, from improving care coordination, to streamlining clinical documentation processing and care team communication.

#2 - Say goodbye to analog and paper processes

Interoperability remains a challenge for seamless exchange of medical documentation inside and outside provider organizations. This leads to the persistence of outdated technologies that can be a major drain on productivity. All critical functions served by the manual and analog processes of pagers, fax machines and paper records could be significantly improved with digital equivalents. 

Take fax, for example. One study suggests that fax accounts for 75% of all medical communication, which is a mind-blowing statistic in today’s digital-first world. When a medical practice has a workflow process enabled by fax that has been deemed compliant with HIPAA privacy and security regulations, it is thus resistant to change. 

Here is an example of a typical fax workflow from a major health system that is costly in terms of both employee time and paper waste. It’s also error prone, as pages can be mixed up or misfiled, leading to referrals that don’t go through, appointments that aren’t scheduled and tests that don’t get ordered.
  1. Receive and print incoming faxes 
  2. Staff member separates faxes by customers
  3. Staff member scans the faxes 
  4. Staff member enters scanned faxes into EHR 
  5. Staff member shreds paper faxes to protect patient privacy

The health system replaced traditional analog fax with its modern alternative, cloud fax, a more secure, fully HIPAA-compliant, and far more cost-effective option for hospitals and medical practices of all sizes. The new system boasts a plethora of features that facilitate streamlined workflows, such as:
  • Faxes sent and received directly from office applications — no more time and money wasted printing, scanning and shredding paper faxes
  • Reduced errors, with individual pages unable to get mixed up between faxes
  • Administrators and clinicians can work securely and efficiently across multiple document types, devices and locations
  • Documents can be shared, annotated, digitally signed, forwarded and filed within a single electronic application
  • Automatic distribution of incoming documents to the correct folder, department or location

#3 - Make the machines do it

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has been a hot topic in healthcare for many years now, and as the benefits are starting to become more widely recognized, more organizations are beginning to adopt A.I. in efforts to improve workflow practices. 

A recent AMA article points to three ways medical A.I. can improve workflow for physicians:
  1. Point-of-care learning: A.I. can personalize content delivery to physicians as clinical questions arise, minimizing time spent searching for relevant information online or in textbooks. 
  2. Clinical documentation: A.I. has the potential to complete clinical documentation tasks with greater efficiency, such as extracting relevant information from a physician’s free-text narrative and inserting it into appropriate structured data fields.
  3. Quality-measurement reporting: A.I. could replace manual data-collection processes by populating missing data fields and reviewing clinical documents and extracting information for quality reports, saving physicians hours of work every week.

With a reported 37% of organizations already using A.I. in one form or another and a further 54% of healthcare professionals expecting widespread adoption within the next five years, it’s safe to say A.I. has made the transition from industry buzzword to business asset. So long as health IT leaders implement A.I. with a security-first mindset, the potential benefits are huge. 

Successful management of acquiring and consolidating information from a variety of sources and formats — EHRs, claims, authorization and payer lists, and potentially, third-party risk vendors — all with their own unique and disparate ways of identifying patients, is important to support for healthcare goals of improved patient outcomes, revenue and quality, as well as decreased cost and error rates.

eFax Corporate’s cloud fax solution for healthcare supports the industry’s journey to meaningful digital transformation, workflow transitions and enablement of patient-centric care.

For more information on eFax Corporate®, you can download this white paper on interoperability.

Additional Resources


To hear more from Brenda Hopkins on healthcare workflow and cloud faxing, join us Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 1:00 p.m. ET for an MGMA webinar "Cloud Faxing Enablement for Secure Document Exchange." Click here for more information and to register.

About the Author

Brenda Hopkins
Brenda Hopkins
CHIO J2 Cloud Services

Brenda Hopkins, J2 Cloud Services CHIO, specializes in healthcare interoperability. She focuses on open data exchange of healthcare information inside and outside of the HER, as well as using open platforms and tools such as APIs as a means of sharing. Hopkins started her career as a pediatric/neonatal transport nurse. She brings a patient/user-centered, team-oriented approach to technology build and enablement for leading software solutions.

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