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Process vs Task

July 5, 2017



Govindh speaks with Nigel Ellis of IMBA Medical, where Nigel is responsible for all practice efficiency products. 


According to Nigel, the key to Practice Efficiency is focusing on process vs. task within a practice, where process is a collection of tasks, and includes all the stages and transitions along a sequence of tasks.   Many systems focus on the clinical and care pathways (as defined by EMR’s) but aren’t seeing or counting the operational pathways and steps, which is where the costs come in.


While most people are very efficient at their given task, there are often inefficiencies in the operational pathways between tasks.  In order to find inefficiencies in the transitions or gaps between tasks, its important to track a process from when it is first initiated to when a patient leaves and the process is complete.  In this way, one can measure one’s own efficiency for their given task, but also the entire process efficiency can be assessed for optimal set up and flow.


Another key challenge in any practice is the need to maintain access to patient records along an entire process; the whole sequence of tasks and the people who touch the information becomes very important in the efficiency equation.  Patient records and medical information can more easily flow within an identified process.


First tracking and then establishing end to end processes brings repeatability and measurability to a practice.  Once a clear process has been documented, efficiency can be measured, established and improved.  Certain functions and tasks can then be more efficiently organized; high value tasks can be minimized, and primary care physicians can focus on the areas where they add conspicuous value. 


According to Nigel, people too often buy their software to support a function (i.e. scheduling system, EMR, physician order entry system) rather than to support a process.  He believes that the more you group tasks into one continuous process rather than function by function, the more efficiency you can gain, and the better able you will be to evaluate which software you actually need.


Identifying processes begins by sitting down and documenting what happens currently in your facility now, from start to finish (i.e. from the first call for action/patient contact to the final contact).  Next, identify what happens to the information along the process:  Who does it go to?  Who gets scheduled?  Now, you can measure, find inefficiencies and areas for improvement.  The next step is simplifying the process in segments over time, making changes and taking actions to improve.


Finally, engage in ongoing review of the processes in your practice, for continual improvement over time.     

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