Enabling Business Intelligence with Workflow Automation

By Scott Fuller
08:16 AM

The list of pain points for many healthcare organizations today is a long one. Lingering economic woes and uncertainty about the future has many a hospital administrator looking for new ways reduce costs, increase revenue, and improve staff efficiency, among other necessary strategies.

Utilizing best practices, lean strategies or other performance improvement tactics, hospitals have been able to achieve some success in improving patient care and processes while decreasing costs. What many don’t understand, however, is that they are sitting on a gold mine of sorts—a trove of data that can be used to promote significant operational, clinical and financial enhancements. Unfortunately, this information is locked away in databases, information systems and file cabinets. And without the proper tools to collect, extract and turn the data into knowledge, healthcare providers are left to apply the same tired solutions to new, increasingly complex problems.

Progressive healthcare organizations, on the other hand, are not simply relying on processes to improve operations. They are leveraging sophisticated business intelligence (BI) technologies to promote informed, top-down decisions that can enhance the patient experience, drive better clinical outcomes, improve staff efficiency and increase revenue.

With a BI strategy, provider organizations have a unique tool designed to extract, consolidate and standardize many different data elements from various information sources. Clinical, operational, revenue cycle and other analytics are delivered to leaders via reports and dashboards, customized to meet their personal preferences. BI software can also be configured to deliver information in near real time, ensuring that administrators can quickly change course before a little problem turns into a major disaster. And many leaders create predictive models to help identify trends that influence and direct the hospital's future course.

But these activities wouldn’t be possible without workflow automation—a set of applications designed to strip manual, paper-based administrative and clinical process from the healthcare system. Workflow automation digitizes the information necessary to effectively perform business intelligence analysis, which in turn improves staff efficiency by offloading labor-intensive, often repetitive tasks. Introducing standardized digital forms throughout the enterprise not only eliminates the need for manual data entry, it frees staff to focus on other tasks that technology is not equipped to handle.

There are a host of areas within a hospital that are ripe for automated workflows. Once implemented, automation in these segments will allow leadership to harvest previously inaccessible data.


•    Medical record review.  Compliance assurance across an entire, multidimensional healthcare organization is a daunting task. Medical record audits are designed to ensure medical necessity, correct coding and regulatory conformity. Handled manually, this can lead to confusion and produce inaccurate data.

•    Accurate coding assurance. Automated workflow solutions ensure that the hospital enters charges accurately and at the appropriately coded levels to maximize reimbursements. And with efficiency added to the charge capture process, the billing department can submit claims in a timely manner, leading to a healthier revenue cycle.

•    Audit processes management. Audits represent a significant challenge to revenues and profit margins for any healthcare provider. With an automated workflow solution, users can view timelines and share audit information with the appropriate individuals to ensure the required data is received and processed in a timely manner—all with an audit trail for accountability.

•    Risk management. Healthcare providers require the ability to record and report on events that compromise patient safety and quality care. Automated workflow solutions improve reporting efficiency by replacing paper forms with a rules-driven intelligence that allows managers to document safety incidents, analyze electronic data and send compliant documents internally as well to patient safety organizations (PSOs).

•    Human resources administration. Human resource departments produce an endless stream of documents such as benefits forms and performance evaluations. With staff management processes consolidated in a customizable workflow solution, not only will HR personnel be more effective, staff members that interface with the department will be better organized and informed.

With automated workflows permeating the organization, hospitals will be in a much better position to leverage their BI platform to access organized, real-time information. This, in turn, will drive a new level of intelligent decision making necessary to succeed in the increasingly complex, ever-competitive and wildly unpredictable healthcare marketplace.