Busy health systems contain complexity in workflow variations and transitions, from appointment scheduling and authorizations to referrals and transitions for additional service. Barriers to efficient workflows include poor usable design of technology for documentation and communications and resistance to change on part of providers and staff. Inefficient communication/coordination is a primary barrier to quality patient outcomes. Efficient workflow enablement and throughput is an opportunity to improve operations and clinical care.

For 78 percent of healthcare quality experts, improved clinical workflow and efficiency are the keys to boosting health information technology quality as reported by American Society for Quality (ASQ) in a recent survey.

Overcoming workflow challenges isn’t easy, particularly when industry regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) are considered. However, by tackling workflow management one area at a time, rather than trying to solve everything overnight, payers and providers can implement more efficient workflow practices that will contribute to improved job satisfaction & productivity among care teams, provide a better patient experiences, and improved financial outcomes.

So what can healthcare executives and senior managers do to improve workflow?

#1 – Adopt EHR best practices

Nothing divides a room like an EHR debate. While electronic health record adoption continues to increase in the U.S., it’s far from being universally welcomed. Sections of the healthcare community see EHRs as more of a hindrance than a help – and a costly one at that – but love them or hate them, given the carrot-and-stick incentives of Meaningful Use and now Promoting  Interoperability, EHRs are here to stay.  

Health systems leaders are challenged to ensure technology investments are integrated to support the best patient experience possible and aid administrative processes and optimize workflows, from improving care coordination to streamlining clinical documentation processing and care team communication

#2 – Say goodbye to analog and paper processes

Interoperability remains a challenge for seamless exchange of medical documentation inside and outside the provider organization. This leads to the persistence of outdated technologies that can be a major drain on productivity.  Pagers, fax machines, paper records; all of the critical functions served by these manual and analog processes could be significantly improved with digital equivalents.

Take fax, for example. One study suggests that fax accounts for 75% of all medical communication, which is a mind-blowing statistic in today’s digital-first world. When a medical practice has a workflow process enabled by fax that has been deemed to comply with HIPAA privacy and security regulations, it  is thus resistant to change.

Here is an example of a typical fax workflow from a major health system that is costly in terms of both employee time and paper waste.  It is also error prone as pages can be mixed up or misfiled leading to referrals that don’t go through, appointments that are not scheduled and tests that do not get ordered.

1. Receive and Print Incoming Faxes –
2. Staff Member Separates Faxes by Customers –
3. Staff Member Scans the Faxes –
4. Staff Member Enters Scanned Faxes into EHR –
5. Staff Member Shreds Paper Faxes to Protect Patient Privacy –

The health system replaced traditional analog fax with its modern alternative, cloud fax, which is more secure, fully HIPAA-compliant, and far more cost-effective for hospitals and medical practices of all sizes.  The new system boasts a plethora of features that facilitate streamlined workflows, such as:

  • Faxes sent and received directly from office applications. No more time and money wasted printing, scanning and shredding paper faxes.
  • Reduced errors as individual pages cannot get mixed up between faxes.
  • Administrators and clinicians can work securely and efficiently across multiple document types, devices, and locations.
  • Documents can be shared, annotated, digitally signed, forwarded and filed within a single electronic application.
  • Automatic distribution of incoming documents to the correct folder, department or location.

Cloud fax streamlines healthcare workflows, replacing the need for fax machines and fax servers, and will support healthcare organizations cloud and digital strategy.

#3 – Make the machines do it

AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been a hot topic in the healthcare world for many years now, and as the benefits are starting to become more widely recognized, more organizations are beginning to adopt AI in an effort to improve workflow practices.

A recent article on AMA points to three ways medical AI can improve workflow for physicians:

  1. Point-of-care learning: AI can personalize content delivery to physicians as clinical questions arise, in order to minimize time spent searching for relevant information online or in textbooks.
  2. Clinical documentation: AI has the potential to complete clinical documentation tasks with greater efficiency, such as extracting relevant information from a physician’s free-text narrative and inserting it into appropriate structured data fields.
  3. Quality-measurement reporting: AI could replace manual data-collection processes by reviewing clinical documents and extracting information for quality reports and to populate missing data fields, saving physicians hours of work every week.

With a reported 37% of organizations already using AI in one form or another and a further 54% of healthcare pros expecting widespread adoption within the next five years, it’s safe to say AI has made the transition from industry buzzword to business asset. So long as IT leaders implement AI with a security-first mindset, the potential benefits are huge.

Successful management of acquiring and consolidating information from a variety of sources and formats – EHRs, claims, authorization and payer lists, and potentially, third party risk vendors – all with their own unique and disparate ways of identifying patients, is important to support for healthcare goals of improvement patient outcomes, revenue and quality and decreased cost and error rates

eFax Corporate’s cloud fax solution for healthcare supports healthcare’s journey to meaningful digital transformation, workflow transitions and enablement of patient centric care.