Workflow Processes

Notes from module 4 of the Interprofessional Health Informatics course I’m working on (plus side reading that I did to fill in some blanks/learn more about some things mentioned in the course). [Note: I posted this on August 5, 2015, but then it disappeared completely from my blog! Thank goodness for Google, as I was able to find a cached version so I could re-post it!]

  • it’s important to understand the flow of work of healthcare providers – and the information required to support that flow
  • “A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of business activity enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information. It can be depicted as a sequence of operations, declared as work of a person or group, an organization of staff, or one or more simple or complex mechanisms” (Source: Wikipedia)
  • some terms in workflow:
    • actor: people or groups who do things in the workflow; each actor gets its own swim lane
    • swim lane: “a visual element used in process flow diagrams, or flowcharts, that visually distinguishes job sharing and responsibilities for sub-processes of a business process” (Source: Wikipedia); allows us to see who is doing what and how are they handing things off to others
    • terminator: indicates the beginning or end of the process (denoted by a circle)
  • when doing workflows, you want to understand:
    • what is the current process? no judgements – just map out what the process is
    • identify areas for improvement/gaps/risks
    • map out an improved process (based on the areas for improvement/gaps/risks that you identified
  • can use colour, for example, to show areas for improvement or gaps
  • to do workflows, sit down and discuss what the process is before you try to map it out
    • how does the process start and end?
    • what steps happen?
    • how does information get captured and handed off?
    • what setting does the process occur in?
    • who does what?
  • then you can map it out:
    • set up a swimlane for each actor
    • different shapes can be used for different things
      • oval or circle = start and stop of a process
      • rectangle = steps in a process
      • diamond = a decision (e.g., if answer is “yes”, follow one path; if answer is “no”, follow another path)
      • document icon = a paper document
    • arrows indicate the flow of the process from one step to the next

Here’s what a workflow diagram looks like, with vertical swimlanes

Business Workflows Diagram

Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Shared with a Creative Commons license.
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