Clinicians use many different clinical workflows in their typical work day. They see patients for appointments, order tests and labs, prescribe medications, write patient notes, respond to patient messages, view results for tests, collaborate with other clinicians, and more. With so many different tasks to do throughout the day, it’s important that clinicians’ workflows are efficient so that they can spend their time focusing on patient care. Keep reading to learn 10 strategies for making clinical workflows in your organization more efficient:
1. Have administrators shadow clinicians to better understand their clinical workflows
There is often a disconnect between clinicians and administrators. Shadowing clinicians allows administrators to see why certain tools and policies are not efficient and how other things could vastly improve workflow processes for the entire care team. By shadowing clinicians on a regular basis, administrators can continually see how various technologies and policies are impacting clinical workflows and care, and then they can work with clinicians to update the technology and policies as needed.
2. Eliminate repetitive documentation workflows
Clinicians spend 13.5 hours a week on tasks other than patient care. A lot of this time is spent on administrative work and documentation. Current clinical workflows often require clinicians to take notes throughout the day on paper, sticky notes, word documents, text messages, emails, and more. At the end of the day, clinicians’ need to find all their notes and then rewrite all of them into the patient chart in the EHR. This duplicative documentation and other redundant administrative work takes time away from clinicians that they could instead use to focus on their patients. Clinicians can use care coordination platforms to streamline documentation workflows by providing clinicians with one secure place to jot down information, and then at the end of the day, these notes can be seamlessly transferred to the EHR. Not only does this improve the workflow, but it also improves the clinicians’ experience.
3. Build your tech stack with tools that optimize specific parts of clinical workflows
A tech stack is an ecosystem of different technologies, softwares, and apps that work together to accomplish goals. Often, healthcare organizations want their EHR to do everything. However, EHRs were built for the business side of healthcare, and were not designed for the delivery of care. EHRs are often siloed and not conducive to collaborative clinical practice with team members in multiple physical locations. A tech stack allows an organization to use other software and apps to optimize the EHR and help with specific aspects of clinical practice. In your organization, are there any processes that are inefficient, or that are done manually, because your current tech isn’t the right tool for the job? Add apps and software to your tech stack that reduces manual processes (where possible) and that makes other processes more efficient, saving time for clinicians and other health professionals to focus on the important part of their job: caring for patients.
4. Integrate technology so that it doesn’t take a lot of time to flip between apps
Your organization may have a population health platform or clinical decision support tool that clinicians are encouraged to use to help with patient care. However, if these apps are not integrated into the EHR, the clinicians are not going to have time to use them consistently. They already have limited time with patients, and they don’t want to spend the time they do have flipping between apps. Integrating technology eliminates that wasted time and allows these tools to do their job (which is generally to make the clinician’s job easier).
5. Shared task list where everyone can see real-time updates
One thing that can interrupt clinical workflows is when clinicians have to ask other clinicians if they did certain tasks. If both clinicians are in the same physical office, they may take a few minutes out of their schedules to talk and check each of their notes. When clinicians are not in the same physical location, they have to call or message each other, and responses may be delayed by hours or even days if the other clinician isn’t working. Not only does this take time to talk to other clinicians, but if one clinician doesn’t get an answer, they may unnecessarily repeat tasks, which is not a good use of time or resources. A shared task list allows the entire team to see which tasks were completed and what still needs to be done in just a few clicks, saving time and cutting duplication.
6. Allow people to work to the top of their license to spread the workload better
Clinicians have a lot of work. Allowing people to work to the top of their license allows for the workload to be better shared. For example, if an MA or assistant can do some paperwork or if a nurse can respond to a physician’s email, then the physician can take the time they would have spent doing this work and focus on the work that only they can do. This optimizes clinical workflows and improves efficiency.
7. Improve log-ins
While this may seem like a small change, simplifying the log-in process can save clinicians time throughout their day. There are many ways to improve log-ins, such as swiping a card or using a fingerprint scanner instead of having clinicians time a username and password, and increasing the time before an auto log-out, especially if the EHR frequently logs clinicians out in the middle of their note-taking.
8. Map and standardize processes within the organization, department, etc.
Each organization and even departments within the organization may work a little differently, including the number and types of staff in each department, number of patients and patient appointment times, and more. Writing out processes or mapping them out visually allows the team to see steps that are redundant or inefficient, and then these steps can be changed to make the various healthcare workflows more efficient.
9. Establish a time each day for communication tasks
Communication may seem like something easy that people can just do in their spare time. However, just because one clinician has a few minutes in between patients doesn’t mean the clinicians they need to talk to also have time. And rushing communication just doesn’t work, as up to 80% of medical errors involve communication errors. Establishing a time for a team huddle, patient handoffs, or responding to emails can help ensure that clinicians have time to thoroughly communicate with their team.
10. Standardize communication processes for telehealth services
Many organizations are offering some forms of telehealth services. However, each organization may utilize telehealth differently. Some organizations may have clinicians in the physical office but offering telehealth services, while others may have their clinicians at remote locations. Sometimes the care team may all be in one office, but other times they may be far away and across time zones. Standardizing communication practices among these clinicians make clinical workflows more efficient and is better for patient care.
What workflow tools and processes are successful in your organization? Which of these do you want to try? Let us know on social media, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org