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Improving Information Workflow in Healthcare

The Importance of Information Workflow in Healthcare

Discussion Style writing answering the following question: Describe a process where information might be handled better in your current setting, or a setting familiar to you. What would you change, if you could, to improve information workflow, and what processes and persons would you involve to make these changes? APA 2 Scholarly resources not older than 5 years Minimum 300 words.

Healthcare is a knowledge-driven industry. Nurses are knowledge workers. As knowledge workers, we collect, manage, consume, analyze, produce, and share information to perform our work, collaborate with other healthcare professionals and healthcare consumers, and provide care. This process is known as the information workflow. Healthcare is not the only industry dependent upon information for its operation. However, unlike many other industries, the availability of timely, accurate, complete information when and where it is needed by the people who need it can make the difference between life and death. Workflow is defined as a set of interrelated tasks or activities that result in a product or service for customers who may be external, or possibly within, the workflow (Eisenstein & Butler, 2015). The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (n.d.) notes that these tasks can be mental and physical, performed by more than one person, occur at several levels sequentially or simultaneously which serves to indicate the complexity of some workflows. The term information workflow refers to the interrelated tasks or activities that yield information.

The classic Institute of Medicine's (2001) report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, recognized the potential for information technology to help healthcare providers improve the speed and efficiency of their workflow processes while improving safety and lowering costs. This potential has also been recognized by professional organizations, consumer groups, and a variety of private groups. Presidents Bush and Obama also expressed their support of health-information technology as a way to transform the healthcare system. President Obama provided funding for the integration of information technology into healthcare settings when he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (which contains the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) into law in 2009.

Ideally, in any given work situation, one has all of the information needed when it is required. The reality can be very different. Often, we are faced with too little information, as may occur when a nonresponsive person is brought to the emergency room, or we may be faced with too much information, some of which may be of dubious quality. This can create confusion and make it more difficult to take appropriate action.

Information flow directly impacts work processes and outcomes. Well-designed information technology improves information workflow and removes some of the burden from nurses and other healthcare providers via the incorporation of system alerts for patient allergies, possible drug interactions, critical lab values, and other key pieces of information. One such example is the unconscious trauma victim who requires immediate surgery but is unable to provide a medical history.

However the patient's identification allows the facility to quickly locate an old medical record that notes an allergy to a commonly used anesthesia drug, thereby preventing an adverse reaction. A well-designed system does more than simply automate a manual process already in place.

Poorly designed technology can create delays, errors, lead to unsafe workarounds, and create the need for redundant processes. Consideration must also be given to the following areas:

  • How are changes in workflow communicated to those who need to know?
  • Healthcare organizations, and nursing, are complex adaptive systems, and as such, assumptions about ways to improve workflow may not always work, particularly if healthcare professionals are not consulted.
  • There may be unintended consequences related to workflow changes.

System Life Cycle Planning

Planning is the first phase in the life cycle. It entails what users envision their software solution to be capable of. This vision should be congruent with the strategic goals of the organization and with the available resources.

In this lesson, we discussed the critical nature of information workflow to the work that nurses and other healthcare providers perform and to the integration of information systems and technology into healthcare delivery systems. Well-designed technology has the potential to deliver information where it is needed when it is needed facilitating care. We also introduced the information-system life cycle, otherwise known as system-development, and focused upon the first phase in that life cycle: planning. The planning phase identifies the priorities and possibilities that users see for a new system as well as a realistic appraisal of the current system. And lastly, we considered the role of the INS in the analysis of workflow and in helping to establish the vision and direction of proposed solutions.

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