Workflow Automation in Healthcare Improves ROI and Health Outcomes
There have been major innovations in healthcare technology over the past 10 years that have helped to significantly improve patient care, but inefficiency remains a problem and workflow automation in healthcare lags almost all other industry sectors. Workflow automation is concerned with using technology to improve efficiency and eliminate waste, and there is no other industry that could benefit more from workflow automation than healthcare.
Reducing inefficiency in healthcare is key to improving profitability of hospitals and driving down the cost of healthcare provision. Improvements in efficiency will significantly improve ROI through more effective allocation of resources, and staff satisfaction will improve. One of the most important benefits to come from eliminating waste is accelerated patient throughput. When the time taken by a patient to journey from admission to discharge is reduced, patient satisfaction scores improve as do health outcomes.
Workflow automation in healthcare is not about replacing surgeons with robots or radiologists with AI-based systems. It is concerned with reducing repetitive tasks, improving information flow, and getting systems to talk to each other. Hospitals use a huge range of different technologies and medical devices that have resulted in major improvements to the quality of care provided to patients. Those technologies have accelerated diagnoses and have eased the burden on healthcare staff. However, one of the main problems is these technologies are often implemented in silos and do not communicate effectively with each other. These disparate systems have great potential to improve patient care, yet the full benefits have not yet been realized.
Advantages of Workflow Automation in Healthcare
Healthcare is not the only industry that can benefit greatly from workflow automation. It is effective in virtually all other industries at removing inefficiencies to improve profitability. Automating labor-intensive, repetitive processes and improving interoperability has other important benefits. The burden on staff is reduced, which helps to reduce burnout, something that is all too common in the healthcare industry.
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Clinicians often feel frustrated that their time is not being spent on the most important tasks – providing care to patients – instead too much time is wasted on duplicate tasks and inefficient communication systems. Information is not efficiently communicated during patient handoffs and critical information is often not available at the point of care to inform treatment decisions. Poor communication is a major cause of medical mistakes. This is not the fault of clinicians; it is a direct result of the inefficient communication tools that they are required to use. Tools that help with workflow automation in healthcare can significantly reduce the potential for human error by freeing up clinicians’ time and helping to ensure that information is always available to the right people, at the right time.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems are showing great promise and are key to workflow automation in healthcare, from assisting radiologists and oncologists with diagnoses to more mundane tasks such as automating administration, reducing the paperwork burden, and improving scheduling. It is likely that AI will play a key role in improving efficiency in the healthcare industry in the next few years, but one of the most important ways of improving workflow automation in healthcare now is to implement a tried and tested technology for optimizing clinical workflows, improving efficiency, eliminating waste, and improving clinical outcomes.
Workflow Automation in Healthcare Should Start with Modernizing Communication Systems
A hospital that works with 100% efficiency is naturally an unrealistic goal, but there are many areas where significant improvements can be made by making simple changes and adopting workflow automation tools, such as clinical communication and collaboration tools. AI-based systems may show great promise, but until the communication problem is sorted out in healthcare, improvements in efficiency will only go so far.
Many hospitals are still heavily reliant on outdated communication tools such as pagers, faxes, and landlines. 1 in 4 hospitals still uses pagers and 90% use fax machines, even though these communication tools are not conducive to efficient workflows.
Clinical communication and collaboration platforms offer a solution. The platforms are accessed via a mobile phone, desktop, or tablet app and are used to communicate via text messages. Rather than sending a page and requiring a call back on a landline, a reply can be fired off immediately through the app. The platforms can be used to send test result data and medical images to clinicians at a patient’s bedside. Physicians can arrange quick consults and eliminate the game of phone tag that often follows the sending of a page.
One of the most important features of the platforms that is crucial to workflow automation in healthcare is the ability to integrate with other systems such as EHRs. In addition to improving communication between members of a care team, data can be sent and received from the EHR.
Healthcare providers that have adopted these communications tools and phased out pagers have seen measurable improvements in efficiency, such as shorter wait times and improved patient flow, fewer medical errors, better patient satisfaction scores, and improved health outcomes.