My Second Blog Post Inspired by Health Datapalooza: Workflow, Communication, Tasks, and Business Process Management

  1. Why is Health IT behind in workflow-friendly technology and process awareness? How do we fix?
  2. Health Datapalooza? Good. Health Workflowpalooza? Even better!

Yesterday’s blog post Health Datapalooza? Good. Health Workflowpalooza? Even better! had a bunch of tweets containing the #HDPalooza hashtag and “workflow,” but I missed the following tweet.

(I missed the tweet because “workflow” doesn’t match “providers–workflow”)

Using “workflow, communication, task management” to “take work back from the providers” will lead to “sudden adoption.”

I agree!

If EHRs and health IT systems need

  • workflow,
  • communication,
  • task management,

where can we find the technology to provide this functionality?

Well, the first place I go to find things, these days, is Google. Below is a screen capture of just the first page of over 12 million hits returned by workflow, communication, task, and management. After the screen capture I pull out some quotes. Reading them is a good introduction to workflow technology.

I hope you’ll actually go through the search results and read extracts from them about workflow, communications, tasks, and management. But, if you must, you go proceed directly to my conclusion.


Since Google constantly tweaks its algorithms, the following is a list of links based on the first page of search results for workflow + communication + task + management.

First there’s the scholarly links. All of them are almost 20 years old (and one is 21 years old!). One of papers has almost 1900 citations. It is widely known. I read it years ago. For each I pull out a bit of relevant content, which, if you read, is not a bad introduction to workflow management technology.

An Overview of Workflow Management: From Process Modeling to Workflow Automation Infrastructure (1995)


Today’s business enterprises must deal with global competition, reduce the cost of doing business, and rapidly develop new services and products. To address these requirements enterprises must constantly reconsider and optimize the way they do business and change their information systems and applications to support evolving business processes. Workflow technology facilitates these by providing methodologies and software to support (i) business process modeling to capture business processes as workflow specifications, (ii) business process reengineering to optimize specified processes, and (iii) workflow automation to generate workflow implementations from workflow specifications. This paper provides a high-level overview of the current workflow management methodologies and software products. In addition, we discuss the infrastructure technologies that can address the limitations of current commercial workflow technology and extend the scope and mission of workflow management systems to support increased workflow automation in complex real-world environments involving heterogeneous, autonomous, and distributed information systems. In particular, we discuss how distributed object management and customized transaction management can support further advances in the commercial state of the art in this area.

The action workflow approach to workflow management technology (1992)


This paper describes ActionWorkflowTM approach to workflow management technology: a design methodology and associated computer software for the support of work in organizations. The approach is based on theories of communicative activity as language faction and has been developed in a series of systems for coordination among users of networked computers. This paper describes the approach, gives an example of its application, and shows the architecture of a workflow management system based on it.

CORBA-Based Run-Time Architectures for Workflow Management Systems (1996)


This paper presents ve run-time architectures for implementing a Workflow Management System (WFMS). The architectures range from highly centralized to fully distributed. Two of the architectures have been implemented at the Large Scale Distributed Information Systems (LSDIS) Lab at The University of Georgia. All the WFMS architectures are designed on top of a Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) implementation. The paper also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the architectures and the suitability of CORBA as a communication infrastructure. A minor extension to CORBA’s Interface De nition Language (IDL) is proposed to provide an alternative means of specifying workflows. Simpli ed examples from the healthcare domain are given to illustrate our technology.

That last line? Healthcare examples!

Let’s look at the rest of search results.

Task handling in workflow management systems


Workow management systems aim to automate the execution of business processes. One of the objectives of the workow systems is to include the already existing applications such as legacy applications as well as new applications which are termed as tasks into the system and provide synchronized execution among them. To achieve this a mechanism is necessary to support the communication between the tasks and the system. The communication mechanism should handle the transfer of data necessary for the execution of the tasks and for the scheduling of the tasks. Another point to be noted is the necessity of the handling user tasks that have to be performed by the users of the workow system. Since the trend is toward distributed execution to avoid the bottlenecks due to the nature of central systems we considered these issues in a distributed execution environment. Therefore in this paper task handling in a truely distributed workow management system that is being developed at METU namely METUFlow is described. Yet the techniques described are general enough to be applicable to any workflow management system.

Workflow Management


Workflow management software is a set of tools that manages the process of collaboration of certain recurring enterprise projects or day-to-day workflows. Generally in companies of any size, there are many types of work that require collaboration among people within the company. Without the help of workflow management solution, collaboration among employees becomes extremely difficult with majority of the communication among members done in manual fashion. DigiCentury provides workflow management solutions customized to any situation.

Collaborative workflow (Wikipedia)


Workflow is a set of activities (service requests, tasks) and the rules that govern their behavior as they move from one service provider to the next until a project is completed.

Collaboration Objects

Collaboration objects include web-based meetings, instant messaging, knowledge management wikis, documents (ECM), and shared calendars.

Definition of Collaborative Workflow

Collaborative workflow is the convergence of social software with service management (workflow) software.

As the definition implies, collaborative workflow is derived from both workflow software and social software such as chat, instant messaging, and document collaboration.

The goal of collaborative workflow is to provide synergetic efficiency gains to its constituents (social communication and service management) by:

  • Improving effectiveness on joint tasks by removing the communication barriers between team members
  • Minimizing organizational boundaries and information silos
  • Allowing online social interaction to be goal oriented, structured, and measured

Ideally, collaborative workflow is a collection of parallel and sequential tasks that rely on communication and coordination to achieve a desired outcome.

TrakSYS for Workflow and Task Management

Workflow and Task Management

  • Automate the flow of information throughout the enterprise
  • Communicate tasks and instructions to personnel
  • Reduce wait and wasted time
  • Eliminate non-productive activities
  • Reduce waste and rework by improving quality and productivity
  • Reduce production cost
  • Improve customer satisfaction

(Could EHRs and health IT systems use workflow/task management? You bet!)

An Overview of Workflow Management: From Process Modeling to Workflow Automation Infrastructure

This is the same paper, by the same name, as one of the links listed in the scholarly links section of this blog post.

Catalog and Archive Workflow Management Component

The critical objects managed by the Workflow Manager include:

  • Events - are what trigger Workflows to be executed. Events are named, and contain dynamic Metadata information, passed in by the user.
  • Metadata - a dynamic set of properties, and values, provided to a Workflow Instance via a user-triggered Event.
  • Workflow - a description of both the control flow, and data flow of a sequence of tasks (or stages that must be executed in some order.
  • Workflow Instance - an instance of a Workflow, typically containing additional runtime descriptive information, such as start time, end time, task wall clock time, etc. A Workflow Instance also contains a shared Metadata context, passed in by the user who triggered the Workflow. This context can be read/written to by the underlying WorkflowTasks, present in a Workflow.
  • Workflow Tasks - descriptions of data flow, and an underlying process, or stage, that is part of a Workflow.
  • Workflow Task Instances - the actual executing code, or process, that performs the work in the Workflow Task.
  • Workflow Task Configuration - static configuration properties, that configure a WorkflowTask.
  • Workflow Conditions - any pre (or post) conditions on the execution of a WorkflowTask.
  • Workflow Condition Instances - the actual executing code, or process, that performs the work in the Workflow Condition.

Mediware Workflow Manager

(Cool! A link from home health made it into the first page of results returned by Google.)

  • Workflow Manager generates notifications automatically, enabling instant, efficient communication.
  • Use the built-in Workflow Manager to enable efficient communication among team members, including clinicians connected through portable devices in the field.
  • View your notifications immediately upon logging in and use the Workflow Manager to track completion of related tasks.
  • Generate communications on-demand or automatically based on important events, such as a patient referral, an adverse event or updates to a medication profile Use rules to define who gets notified of what and when.
  • Define priority events that pop up a message to affected users as soon as they occur.
  • Jump from a task directly to the patient or claim that needs action.
  • Track ownership and assign tasks to other users.

Exploring Human Workflow Architectures


Human workflow systems and some of the most representative patterns of human-to-business processes interactions break down into two major components. The first is human workflow systems and the interactions among them as they are implemented in integration platforms. The second component is human workflow interaction design patterns and how they are implemented using interactions among the human workflow systems. This discussion will take a close look at these processes.

[End of list of links and extracted material]


I’ve written about many of the above topics in this blog (200+ posts) and I’ve tweeted about them from @EHRworkflow (20,000+ tweets). I could provide links from some of this material to specific posts. Sometimes I do exactly this, write a post and link back to lots of other posts. This time I’ll not, because I don’t want to break up the material or to lead readers out of this post. I’d rather you make it this far without distraction. But, I do hope you’ll take a look at the long list of blog post links on the right side of this blog. Also, my Electronic Medical Record Workflow Management: The Workflow of Workflow has been at the top of Google for EMR + workflow and EHR + workflow for a decade.

The workflow management systems industry has moved on and terminology has changed. Most workflow management systems are called business process management systems or suites. “Suites” refers to the wide assortment of wonderful tools that workflow engines and executable process models make possible and benefit from. One way to calculate this overlap is to conduct one more Google search. It is the same search as above (workflow + communication + task + management), with one addition: BPM.

Wow! Over two million hits!

Sounds like another blog post.

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