Day One of Healthcare Business Intelligence Forum: Show Me The Workflow

I am delighted to be attending the Healthcare Business Intelligence Forum here in DC. As usual, Industrial Engineer/MD that I am, I looked for workflow tech.

That’s an old tweet, from the recent HIMSS14 conference. But it’s a fitting start of this blog post.

I’ve written a lot about the workflow technologies necessary to support care coordination, so my ears perked up at the above reference to secret sauce.

If care coordination is the secret sauce of population health management and if (as I argue) workflow automation is the secret sauce of care coordination, then isn’t workflow automation the secret sauce of the secret sauce of health population management? I certainly believe it is.

Above reminds me of a complaint about EHRs. They have the data but they don’t help users do what they need to do NEXT. Managing population health means taking that data and turning it into actions at the point of care. And that’s what workflow tech does.

More examples of workflow automation style task management: populating work lists and alerting users to actions needing to be taken.

Now what I find so interesting about this slide is the way in which “care coordination” clearly occurs outside of the EHR. This too bad, but unfortunately it’s the situation today. I read recently that many millions of investment money has gone into care coordination companies during the last couple years. Some are leveraging the kind of workflow management tech I’m looking for evidence of here at the conference.

Again this tweet echoes the previous one about NOW, NEXT, LATER. Workflow tech reminds you to do something you told it to remind you about a month ago. Actually, if you set up the workflow definitions right, it can figure out what it needs to remind you about when and where without you explicitly telling it to do so! Saves a lot of work that way.

BREAKING: workflow! :)

I walk around with Google Glass at health IT conferences and conduct what I call One-Minute Interviews. There’s just one question and I upload and tweet on the conference hashtag literally on the spot.

In the following video Christina remarks that one of the presentations emphasized that traditional business intelligence (dashboards, reports) is not enough. Business intelligence has to reflect, and in turn drive, actual, executable workflows. This approach is called Business Process Management, or BPM (though in a medical context, search engines sometimes think it means Beats Per Minute). I maintain an entire blog on Healthcare BPM.

It’s great to see a rep from a BPM vendor, especially Appian, at a health IT conference!

This tweet also echoes an earlier one about not knowing the true cost of healthcare. Which is another way of saying we don’t know the true cost of healthcare workflows. Well, healthcare workflow is made up of tasks. The most expensive resources to accomplish these tasks are people. And we don’t know how long which people spend on which tasks (see, I told you I’m an Industrial Engineer). And (I know, that’s the second “and”), I don’t think we’ll be able estimate the costs of these workflows without workflow technology to automatically measure these durations. Healthcare cost accounting systems are hobbled by lack of input from time stamped data about resources used to accomplish specific workflow tasks. See: Show me the workflow tech!

Rogers Diffusion of Innovation Curve was used to explain adoption of EHR tech. But I include it here because it also describes diffusion of workflow tech into healthcare.

By the way, the rest of the tweeted slides in this blog post are quite geeky. You have been warned.

Interesting: Core Applications and Workflow/Automation…

If you look up what this means (in the small print on the next slide), it “orchestrates execution of the activities of care coordination.” Wow! That sounds pretty important. In fact, this is the secret sauce of the secret sauce angle I riffed on earlier.

The above “marketecture” is sufficiently important that I’m not satisfied with its resolution (in other words, I can’t read the small print!). So here is the original photo. There are five main components.

  1. Connectivity, Security and Interoperability (dark blue line)
  2. Data Integration and Management in purple (including a Natural Language Processing inset in red)
  3. Data Analytics and Content in yellow
  4. Core Applications and Workflow/Automation in green
  5. Physician/Patient Engagement in red

My point here is to highlight the importance of workflow automation to the entire scheme. If you look up #4, here is what the small print says: Core Applications and Workflow/Automation: Orchestrates the execution of activities that constitute the care continuum, gathering contextual information from the transactional systems as well as the data warehouse.

Anyway, the first day of the Healthcare Business Intelligence Forum was just great. I’m seeing exactly what I hoped to see: workflow automation closing the loop from clinical and financial data back to executable workflows at the point of care. Exactly where is should be.

I’m looking forward to more of the same tomorrow, the second and closing day of the Healthcare Business Intelligence Forum!

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