EMR Workflow Systems vs. EHR Workflow Management Systems

Short Link: http://ehr.bz/la

I’ve added a new page to this website about “EMR Workflow Systems” (”EMR WfSs” to get it to fit on a WordPress navigational tab). By the way, there is an important conceptual (and practical) difference between an EHR Workflow Management System and an EMR Workflow System.

Just as workflow management systems are used to create and manage workflow systems–as discussed in Prof. van der Aalst’s book on workflow management systems–EHR workflow management systems are used to create and manage specialty-specific EMR workflow systems. This is similar, by analogy, to the way in which database management systems are used to create and manage database systems. Your baseball card collection database is a database system; it was a database management system, such as MS Access, that created and manages it.

“A workflow management system is a software package for the implementation of a workflow system. The term refers to a universally applicable system; in other words, a workflow management system is not customized to a specific business situation. By configuring such a system, it is turned into one which supports specific workflows. Unlike a workflow system, a workflow management system is a generic application.” (Page 357, Wil van der Aalst, Kees Max van Hee, Workflow Management: Models, Methods, and Systems, MIT Press, 2004.)

“A workflow system is one that supports the workflows in a specific business situation. Unlike a workflow management system, a workflow system usually consists of a workflow management system plus process and resource classification definitions, applications, a database system, and so on. We can compare the difference between a workflow management system and workflow system to that between a database management system and a database system.” (Page 357, Wil van der Aalst, Kees Max van Hee, Workflow Management: Models, Methods, and Systems, MIT Press, 2004.)

When you fill an EHR workflow management system with specialty-specific content (such as specialty-specific picklists of symptoms, physical findings, assessments, treatments and so on), add specialty-specific screens for (using pediatrics for example) immunization management, growth tracking, developmental checklists, rely on pediatric-specific functionality such as pediatric dosing and data norms, *and* create the necessary pediatric-specific workflow definitions (also known as process definitions), the result is a pediatric EMR workflow system. Different specialty-specific picklists, screens, other functionality, and workflow results in a different specialty-specific EMR workflow system.

So far I think I’ve done a good job of posting about the general (that is, universal) characteristics of EHR workflow management systems (for example, “What’s So Special about EHR Workflow Management Systems?” and “Litmus Test for Detecting Frozen EHR Workflow”) while touching on EHR business process management as well. However, while EMR customizers (”customizers”, not “customers”)  interact directly with an EHR workflow management system (three words!), physicians, physician assistants, nurses, technicians, and administrative staff typically do not. They interact directly with the EMR workflow system (two words!) that pops out when you turn the crank on the EHR workflow management system.

That’s the difference between an EMR (or EHR) workflow system and an EHR (or EMR) workflow management system.

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  1. [...] ten pediatricians listed in the July issue of Atlanta Magazine use the EncounterPRO Pediatric EMR (workflow system). The pediatric practices [...]

  2. [...] a previous post on pediatric EMR workflow systems I drew the following diagram to represent the relationship among [...]

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