Importance of Simplifying and Standardizing Workflows in Healthcare

December 15, 2023
Gillian Vendittelli

ūü§Ē What Does It Mean To Simplify and Standardize?

Before we hop into the article, what do the words ‚Äúsimplify‚ÄĚ and ‚Äústandardize‚ÄĚ mean? To simplify a workflow process means to reduce the steps necessary to complete an action. An example of this is reducing the number of clicks, single sign-ons, streamlining, automating, improving usability and user experience (UX). To standardize a workflow process means to increase the compatibility and integration of technologies used in workflow processes. In healthcare this may look like: improving interoperability, minimizing the number of different vendors, and consequently minimizing the number of systems used.

According to Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips of the New England Journal of Medicine, the United  States’ healthcare  leads the world in high-end innovation and curative care but falls behind in health outcomes. While we may have the technology and innovation in the United States, the industry lags without proper strategy and standardized processes for workflow. With healthcare being the industry of caregiving and not process-doing, simplifying and standardizing is an integral part of healthcare innovation. Healthcare is also a time sensitive industry given the importance of punctual care. The more simplified and standardized healthcare workflows are, the less time caregivers spend away from patients and the more time they can spend caring. This efficiency affects the quality of care given by improving effectiveness and safety in care.

ūüŹ• The Current State of Healthcare Workflows

Healthcare workflows have always been noted as complex and involving numerous applications from different vendors. The effects of non-standardization have typically been highlighted when hospital systems merge and have to combine workflows, applications, and data. With healthcare becoming increasingly more digital and systems refusing to work collaboratively on new digital tools and products, the effects of non-standardization are being felt more.

Potential areas of improvement for workflows include:

Patient Intake - Streamline registration process, interactive feedback, and digital forms

Patient Discharge - Automated discharge instructions and virtual follow ups

Compliance Procedures - Interactive medication reminders  and personalized care plans

Communication and Collaboration - Secure messaging platforms and collaborative tools

Tele-health - Integrated platforms, remote consultations, and patient education

Device Monitoring - Personalized dashboards and reporting

Currently, healthcare is undergoing a digital and technological transformation as it emerges out of the pandemic. This transformation has further revealed how rooted non-standardization is in the healthcare industry. Like a weed that has run rampant, it is to the point of no longer being able to turn a blind eye. The digital tools and products impacting clinician workflow and quality of care are often too numerous, inefficient, and unnecessary. By integrating with current systems, data streams remain undisturbed and monitoring is advanced.

From WynHouse’s engagements with healthcare clients, most healthcare systems have similar workflows or similar workflow bottlenecks that can be solved through a digital tool or product designed primarily based on their hospital system and secondarily for adoption at other hospital systems.

One example of this is the partnership between WynHouse and Bon Secours Mercy Health. Bon Secours Mercy Health  identified new efficiency opportunities in compliance auditing processes during the recent pandemic and approached WynHouse to evaluate their current processes and propose digital solutions. The digital tool developed and deployed in collaboration automated compliance tracking activities for the healthcare system. By simplifying compliance tracking, Mercy Health was able to reduce tracking time by 80% across multiple compliance tasks.

The digital solution was originally designed for tracking Hand Hygiene and Personal Protective Equipment Tracking at Mercy Health. It has since matured to include other compliance tracking activities across the hospital system, like CLABSI. Mercy Health is not the only hospital system who has compliance tracking activities; thus, the product is currently undergoing the commercialization process to be used at other hospital systems. These solutions are also scalable to the size of the hospital.

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ūüďŹ Impact of Simplification and Standardization On Hospitals

In order to simplify and standardize hospital system workflows, there are monetary and time investments a hospital must make.There is the monetary investment needed to develop the new digital tool or product. There’s the time it takes to develop the digital tool or product and then integrate it into the system. There’s the cost of learning and adoption of the new technology by hospital staff. This can be off-putting for some; however, the goal of investment is to see a return on investment. That said, it is expected that an investment of time and money into new technology to improve workflow processes will result in cost-savings through an increase in monetary gains and productivity. Improved digital tools increase the quality and safety of care, hospital operation efficiencies, and data enrichment.

Takeaway

The role of simplifying and standardizing workflows is critical in the healthcare industry. While the US leads in high-end innovation, standardized processes are necessary to improve health outcomes. The current state of complex workflows and numerous applications from different vendors is hindering efficiency and quality of care. We are in an age of digital transformation in healthcare and the time to address non-standardization is now.  The example of WynHouse's partnership with Bon Secours Mercy Health demonstrates how digital solutions can significantly improve workflow efficiency and compliance tracking. The impact of simplification and standardization on hospitals, highlights the potential for cost-savings, increased productivity, and improved quality and safety of care.

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