EHR implementation can be a complicated and sometimes disruptive process if you don’t plan in advance. It all starts with your workflows. Documenting your workflows can help you organize the implementation process and get staff and clinician buy-in for your new behavioral health EHR system. In fact, workflow analysis and potentially redesigning your workflows to mesh with your new EHR system can help you save money, engender staff satisfaction with the change, smooth the transition, and ultimately improve your clients’ experience.
What are workflows?
A workflow is the set of tasks necessary to provide a service to clients. For example, refilling a prescription is a workflow as is an intake of a new client. Individual tasks in the intake workflow could be confirming a client’s insurance, gathering the necessary personal information and scheduling an appointment.
Documenting all of your agency’s workflows can be time-consuming but will help you identify areas that need improvement. It’s important that your workflows be optimized before implementation because an ineffective workflow will only cause frustration when using your new EHR.
Analyzing your workflows will reveal inefficiencies and bottlenecks. You can use the analysis to rearrange, eliminate or restructure your workflows. For example, some processes can be made less time-consuming, or you could eliminate too many hand-offs. Also, you can establish clear accountability for each task, making it easier to measure productivity.
How to analyze your workflows.
The first step is to create a team of representatives from administration, clinical staff, clerical and billing personnel, and executives. You want to capture the full lifecycle of a client, which spans across different departments and personnel. This first step will be great in helping you to identify where hand-offs occur, understand how each person’s role can be affected by others, and improve communication.
After documenting each step in your behavioral health agency’s EHR workflows, you may be surprised at how roles and responsibilities have evolved over the years or the amount of on-the-fly tasks that occur. At this point, it is of vital importance that the staff performing the tasks have an opportunity to review the workflows to ensure that each one is clear and represented correctly.
It is also incredibly important to capture paper forms used by all personnel if you’re still using them. You’ll need to understand how the data captured on paper fits in with your workflows so you can identify how it will be implemented electronically in your new behavioral health EHR system.
Analyzing your workflows will show you:
- The crucial sequence of steps in each process.
- Bottlenecks or interruptions in the flow.
- Solutions to eliminate bottlenecks.
- Opportunities to make efficiency improvements.
- Ways to redesign workflows, so they mesh with an EHR.
- How to take advantage of your new EHR’s automation.
Creating new workflows.
The result of your existing EHR workflow analysis is to identify how your agency will operate once the new behavior health EHR implementation occurs. Certain tasks and workflows will need to change to reflect the flow of information in your EHR accurately, and others will need to change to take advantage of the EHR’s automation.
It’s important that you have a thorough understanding of how your new EHR functions to create new EHR workflows. A demonstration of the EHR software solution can show staff and clinicians what the platform automates and how it will simplify your workflows. Your new workflows can be an integral part of your new EHR system training materials, helping staff and clinicians learn the new processes and how they work in the EHR.
It’s important to point out that you shouldn’t rely on your EHR vendor for workflow analysis. Your agency’s staff and clinicians on the front line are the real subject-matter experts. You’ll get better results and greater staff buy-in when employees directly create your new workflows.
Clarifying your EHR workflows and improving your processes helps smooth your behavioral health EHR system implementation. And the flip side of a smooth implementation is the efficiencies gained through your new workflows. You’ll also achieve more productive communication between staff members, which helps your team efficiently deal with any disruption that implementation might bring.
The morale of this story is that workflow analysis needs to happen, whether you choose to do it before implementation or after. Waiting until after implementation creates chaos when your new EHR system goes live, and your staff tries to figure out how things should work. Planning ahead gives your employees the opportunity to learn and understand the EHR workflows before they become challenged with a new system to negotiate.