News Feature | August 7, 2015

Workflow Disrupted By HIT

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Doctor Purge UnitedHealth

The implementation and use of health IT interrupts workflow according to a study from the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality.

An Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality study found workflow is significantly affected when new health technology is introduced. This causes interruptions throughout the clinical process and all work roles.

Fierce EMR reports the study focused on six ambulatory practices from two participating healthcare organizations, three each on the East and West coasts. This included 120 clinicians and clinic staff.

The results showed implementation of new technology changed the way each of these organizations operated. For example, clinicians’ and clinic staff’s time on different clinical tasks was redistributed and workspaces were used differently. In addition, there were a greater number of disruptions and staff spent more time multitasking and working after hours. This was attributed to the need for more structured documentation and shifts in responsibilities among clinical staff.

One clinic was so affected by the new technology it saw interruptions increased to three times as many as there were before the new technology was introduced. Another negative effect was that after new HIT was introduced, clinicians often spent more time on documentation and less time communicating with their patients.

The authors explain, “Clinical workflow is a complex undertaking that encompasses many facets including discrete work processes, sequential order task execution, task interdependency, communication and interaction patterns, and shared and shifting responsibilities among members of a care team. Clinical workflow is also a dynamic and fragile system impacted by changes introduced into the clinical environment such as implementation of new health information technology (IT) systems.”

“The clinical work processes and workflow at the two participating organizations were considerably altered by the new health IT systems implemented as part of ongoing practice redesign initiatives,” concluded researchers.