HealthOctober 19, 2016

Six strategies for streamlining nursing workflow

How can you save time and money by helping nurses work more efficiently?

You've probably heard the adage, “work smarter, not harder.” Workflow improvements, such as electronic health records (EHR), allow nurses to spend more time with patients and less time at the computer. Technological resources can streamline workflow at the point-of-care, improve teamwork, provide material for efficient nursing research, and help nurse managers track staff proficiency and provide standardized procedures.

The need to think about workflow design is pressing due to several factors in healthcare, including:

  • the introduction of new technologies and treatment methodologies into clinical care
  • the challenge of coordinating care for the chronically ill
  • the participation of a growing number of professionals in a patient’s care team, and new definitions in their roles
  • cost and efficiency pressures to improve patient flow
  • initiatives to ensure patient safety
  • implementation of changes to make the care team more patient-focused.

1. New technologies streamline workflow at the point-of-care 

EHR systems allow nurses quick access to patient information at the point of care that can also map drug information and customize patient handouts. Before implementing information technology in a health care environment, it is important to have an understanding of processes and information flows. In addition, the decision makers must consider the various roles in the different departments, and consider ideas from multiple sources. Each department and role may have a different perspective.

2. Coordinating care

Valuable information can be lost when poor workflow impedes communication and coordination of care. Characteristics of a poorly functioning work process include unnecessary pauses and rework, delays, established workarounds, gaps where steps are often omitted, and a process that participants feel is illogical. A good workflow will lead to care that is delivered more consistently, reliably, safely, and in compliance with standards of practice.

3. Improving teamwork among the care team

Workflow processes are maps that direct the care team on how to accomplish its goals. Nurses can work as a team to create department-specific folders online to store valuable information such as links to research articles, images, alerts, other information needed on the floor, and customized education packets. When communication is smooth, working together as a team comes easily.

4. Making care more cost-efficient

According to, based on the size of the health system and the scope of their EHR implementation, benefits for large hospitals can range from $37 to $59 million over a five-year period in addition to incentive payments. Savings are primarily attributed to automating time consuming paper-driven and labor-intensive tasks. Using EHR results in reduced transcription costs; reduced chart pull, storage, and re-filing costs; improved and more accurate reimbursement coding with improved documentation for highly compensated codes; and reduced medical errors through better access to patient data and error prevention alerts.

5. Ensuring patient safety

Another unique aspect of technology at the bedside allows nurse managers to provide their nursing staff with standardized procedures and track their staff’s proficiency in skills and procedures with skill competency checklists. This ensures that procedures are being performed the right way and are supporting safe outcomes for patients.

6. Patient-centered care

Patient-centered care is defined as “care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient's values guide all clinical decisions.”

Healthcare organizations that are patient-centered engage patients as partners in their care. The evidence for principles and practice of patient-centered care has resulted in increasing recognition of, and greater focus on, the engagement of patients, and the value and benefit of patient engagement.

Implementing enhanced workflow strategies will build teamwork, save money, improve patient care and ultimately, outcomes.

Learn how the Lippincott Solutions suite of institutional, evidence-based decision support software can help your facility optimize clinical workflow and drive more reimbursable patient outcomes.

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