Mapping a Complete Workflow for a Clinical Process
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It should be noted that a “process” is work performed and “workflow” is how the work moves from one stage to another toward the process’ completion. Mapping a process and its workflow is a fairly well-defined science, with a number of tools and techniques that can be used to understand current workflows and processes as well as identify opportunities for improvement.
However, very simple inconveniences—such as the need to access a patients’ wrist for the barcode strip—have led to workflow workarounds, such as scanning barcodes off a key ring rather than the patient. In this case, the nurses’ adaptation to make their work more efficient circumvents some of the intended benefits of the defined process. These alternate workflows are a cause for concern because these informal, evolutionary systems rely on the clinicians’ memories, and bypass decision-support safeguards that the system may provide. Studies have documented other negative effects, (Kobayashi M, Fussell) such as degraded coordination between nurses and physicians, nurses dropping activities during busy periods, and decreased ability to deviate from routine sequences.
Even literature that specifically considers workflow may limit the analysis to one organizational role. Thus, our literature search did not attempt to be a comprehensive search of literature published on workflow, but rather a scan of areas in the medical and nursing literature where relevant publications are likely to appear. There is also a longer history of research literature in other fields, notably industrial engineering and management.
Patterson ES, Rogers ML, Chapman RJ, et al. Compliance with intended use of bar code medication administration in acute and long-term care: an observational study. Hum Factors. 2006
Kobayashi M, Fussell SR, Xiao Y, et al. Work coordination, workflow, and workarounds in a medical context. Proceedings of CHI 2005, Conference on Human Factors in Computing; pp. 1561–4.
Galbraith JR. Organization design: an information processing view. Interfaces. 1974;4(3):28–36.
Carley KM, Prietula MJ, editors. Computational organization theory. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum, Publishers; 1994.
Bricon-Souf N, Renard JM, Beuscart R. Dynamic workflow model for complex activity in intensive care unit. Int J Med Inform. 1999;53:2–3. 143–50.