What are automated healthcare processes?
What is a process?
Processes are around us all the time. When you cook, it is a process. You start with an empty stomach, read through the recipe, prepare the ingredients, start with step 1 in the recipe and when you are done you sit down and eat. The process has made it go from hungry to measured. In a process there is always a start and an end and in between there are a number of things to be done in a certain order.
The time it takes to go from start to finish in a process is ususally called lead time, ie how long does it take to cook the food in the example above. Automated healthcare processes usually reduce lead times because they are always there and working and always have full control of all parts of the process. They also don't mind doing "boring jobs" all day.
Why do processes exist?
As we described above, there are processes whether we think about what we do as processes or not. Describing the things we do in processes helps us to think about and analyze the processes. Do we really need to implement every part of the process? Can you move the different steps in the process to make it easier and take less time? Maybe work with things in parallel? Can anyone else take care of certain steps in the process? There are a number of good questions you can ask yourself and think about once you have the process defined.
Business Process Management (BPM)
If you have been in contact with processes before then you may have heard of BPM, Business Process Management. BPM is a collection of methods, tools and technologies for designing, establishing, analyzing and following up operational processes. BPM gives you a high degree of flexibility and quality in the digitized processes, it is faster to produce them and it is done at a lower cost. Good process tools use BPM as a basis for development so that the system uses both the latest in process technology and at the same time becomes clear and easy to use.
Processes in healthcare
You who work in healthcare are involved in processes at work all the time. Sometimes they are called routines or instructions, but they all include a number of steps defining what you do and exactly how to do thing, eg. when to report nutrition or pain with the Abbey Pain Scale. You can certainly list a larger number of routines or instructions or processes that you have in your work and follow each day.
Standardized care processes
Standardized care processes (standardiserade vårdprocesser), as defined by the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden, are another example of health care processes. Standardized care processes are a way of describing how to investigate and treat a number of diseases, e.g. in cancer care. These are designed to give the same healthcare regardless of which care provider is treating a patient, and that the patient should be able to see and understand what steps are included and where they are in their healthcare process.
Healthcare processes today
Today, the majority of healthcare processes are described in some form of document, on paper or digitally. The description works as a map and it is the healthcare staff who then ensures that the various elements of the process are made. It can be to call a patient, book a lab time or make a fall risk assessment. It is therefore the healthcare staff who must keep track of when one step in the process is comoleted and the next can begin. Sometimes this is done through a note or a message, but just as often the caregiver himself has to go in and check, for example if a lab test answer has arrived. The main principle is that it is a person who ensures that the next step in the process is initiated and made after the previous step on the list is completed.
Automated healthcare processes
In the automated healthcare process, it is not a healthcare professional who drives the process forward, but an IT-based tool. You can say that the description of the process itself is the same as you have had on paper before. What differs is who looks at the process description and initiates the different steps in the process. Instead of you having to read about the next step in the process and do what it says, you have defined the same thing in the tool and also described to the tool how to do this step. When a item on the list is completed, the next item automatically starts.
Order lab time
We take the example of ordering a lab time. When you order a lab time, you might call the lab or go to the lab's website, or go into another IT system where you book an appointment. With the automated healthcare process, it is the IT tool that contacts the lab itself and makes an appointment. For this to work, of course, the IT tool must have all the information, but it is the same information you had when you manually booked the time, so really no difference, except that it now happens automatically.
Work with deviations
One of the major advantages of automated healthcare processes is that the healthcare staff does not have to do administrative routine tasks, and can instead work with deviations, ie things that are not planned but that still happen, while the system automatically guides the patient from one step to the next in the process. While the automatic system sends out invitations and reminders to patients, something that was previously done manually, the healthcare staff can instead devote their time to contacting patients who, for example, does not confirm a booking or who has special needs.
The healthcare staff always has an overview in the tool and sees where in the process a specific patient is located. At the same time, the patient has their own login where they can see all the parts of their own healthcare process and where they are right now. This increases the sense of participation and understanding of the patient as they see the whole picture and constantly know what the next step is. The automated healthcare process thus has different logins and different overview images, so-called views, for healthcare staff, patient and also for the care management. The management can see a summary with statistics of the processes and can eg. get warnings if queues are formed where patients have to wait unnecessarily or bottlenecks where they need to redistribute staff.
Benefits of automated healthcare processes
There are many benefits to automated healthcare processes. Here we have listed the most common:
- Automatically guides patient and healthcare staff from one step to the next in the process
- Less administrative work
- Handles monotonous and repetitive tasks
- Ensures that no part of the patient's care process falls between cracks, or is forgotten
- No need to manually go in and check if a process step is complete
- Free up the healthcare staff to work with deviations
- High and consistent quality of work
- Shorter lead times for the process
- Easy to make changes in the process
- The healthcare management gets an aggregated view of the entire care unit's processes, as well as real-time status updates of the care flow, including bottleneck warnings etc.
- The healthcare staff receives less administrative work, less stress that something should be missed, and a better overview of the patients
- The patient gets better control and feels more involved by having an overview of their own overall healthcare process. The patient can see where they are and what the next step is