Physicians prefer spending their time providing actual care to their patients. Many of them end up limited in their ability to do so due to inefficient office procedures. They’re often dealing with outdated ways of handling medical data, struggling with software that’s not suited to their needs, or unable to communicate effectively with outside facilities. Physician Workflow involves getting patients signed in, obtaining the appropriate paperwork from them, and getting them back to see the doctor as quickly as possible. It covers doctors having relevant data immediately available to figure out the best path forward for their patients. It’s office staff making sure all needed paperwork gets organized, that prescriptions are accounted for, and that all medical data captured by the doctor can be pulled when needed. Missing critical information during any of these steps often is the difference between life and death.
An article published on the Physician’s Practice website by Dr. Patricia Moore, Ph.D. back in 2002 shows the early beginnings of the quest to use software to smooth out the pain points in the healthcare process. It details the efforts of vendors to create electronic solutions promising to give doctors the Physician Workflow of their dreams. They included software platforms for handling EMRs (Electronic Medical Records) and providing PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants).
As detailed in a 2015 article from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the biggest problems doctors face in implementing an effective Physician Workflow come when forcing technology to fit current procedures instead of taking the opportunity revamp office functions and create ways to use the technology to help both themselves and patients.
Maintaining Physician Workflow with Electronic Records
The AAFP recommends using Electronic Health Records (EHAs) to ignite a Physician Workflow. Having an accurate EHA means having better medical histories available and getting alerted when something is missing. This allows office staff to contact patients beforehand for needed information. Doing this helps eliminate frustrating piles of paperwork for patients to wade through when they get to the office.
AAFP provides insight into non-computer solutions for office staff. Suggestions involve changing up the layout of an office to move patients through more efficiently. Providing access to tools like tablets or other devices lets patients look up information on their own. Cross-training staff about different office functions means always having a person available to answer any questions posed to them, getting rid of single-person information silos preventing knowledge from being spread throughout an office.
AAFP sees how the right innovative Physician Workflow gets the most-needed data straight to doctors, letting them create the best treatment plans possible. They envision procedures allowing doctors to send prescriptions straight from the examination room to the pharmacy without the need for the patient to stop by the front desk. They see the addition of open-access scheduling giving patients same-day access to physicians.
Any new workflow has to suit the needs of the office. The wrong system makes the entire process more unwieldy and difficult for the staff to work in, leading to extra patient discomfort and further degrading the doctor visit experience. Solution providers need to understand the basic flow of how the offices of medical providers function if they’re going to provide effective software that actually meets the needs of physicians. Companies like Health Catalyst strive to take the input of medical professionals into account when building out a modern Physician Workflow solution.
Patients look for physicians who put in the time and effort to make their experience as easy as possible. Doctors looking to provide this standard should make sure that any software installed or changes to office routine keep the needs of patients in mind, freeing them up to focus on providing quality patient care.
Physician Workflow Improves Healthcare Quality
Improvements aren't always from the doctor's perspective in treating the patient, but also the patient as a consumer looking to better their quality of care. Patient satisfaction, lowering of medical errors and readmissions, along with eliminating duplications of services are just a few of the fundamental focuses that are being analyzed in order to improve the overall quality within healthcare. By no means are patients going or should they begin treating themselves. However, being a well-informed patient or relative of a patient creates a foundation with which better care will be provided. This can include knowledge about treatments, follow-up appointments, prescription medicine schedules, and at-risk behaviors that may prevent or retard recovery. Other improvements make sure that the healthcare professional has as much information at their fingertips. Whether this is having the patient's medical history readily available, being able to immediately look up outside sources to diagnose illnesses, or catching when prescribed drugs might cause serious consequences with one another. The more information that is accessible, the more effectively and efficiently treatments can be made, especially on an individual basis.