AHRQ hopes to help hospitals with health IT project workflow

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality hopes to address one of the most challenging aspects of big health information technology projects: workflow design. The federal agency announced it is seeking feedback on a proposed Workflow Assessment for Health IT Toolkit.

"Understanding clinical work practices and how they will be affected by practice innovations such as implementing health IT has become a central focus of health IT research," the agency wrote in the March 9 Federal Register.

"While much of the attention of health IT research and development had been directed at the technical issues of building and deploying health IT systems, there is growing consensus that deployment of health IT has often had disappointing results, and while technical challenges remain, there is a need for greater attention to sociotechnical issues and the problems of modeling workflow."

The toolkit will allow hospitals to evaluate workflow in ambulatory care for all stages of health IT implementation, from determining system requirements to using the system once it's in place. In particular, the agency wants to make sure the toolkit is useful to small- and medium-sized ambulatory care clinic managers, clinicians, and staff.

To that end, it plans to conduct field assessments in 18 small- and medium-sized practices and gather feedback from two Health IT Regional Extension Centers.

Comments on the proposal are open until April 8.

In his Regional Extension Center blog, analyst Bobby Gladd responded to the AHRQ request by offering readers two workflow graphics that represent cases he's worked on--one of them didn't go so well.

"The first one comes from a doc who wasted a bunch of my time (and his), only to decide he wanted to ditch his EHR contract and go back into Vendor Selection, right on the heels of our being accorded sandbox access to the product so that we could begin to map specific workflows, particularly those relating to Meaningful Use compliance," Gladd writes. "That had to have been several grand of FTE in the commode."

To learn more:
- read the AHRQ announcement in the Federal Register
- here's Gladd's blog post