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The Catalyst

MHA students team up to analyze, improve workflow

By Karen A. Wager, DBA
College of Health Professions

Implementing an electronic health record system is an enormous undertaking. It requires extensive planning, communication, coordination, workflow analysis, testing and training.

Rebecca Freeman, R.N., chief nursing information officer and Ph.D. candidate, said “critically analyzing work flow is one of the single most important steps” in a smooth EHR implementation. “We discovered this firsthand with the ambulatory care Epic implementation last summer.”

It is also one of the reasons Freeman jumped at the opportunity to partner with the Master in Health Administration program to create a real-world, applied learning experience for the students that would also be beneficial to the EHR implementation team.

First-year master in health administration students, from left, Tyler Mikell, Molly O’Quinn and Chesley Elliott, display the process map they built in their health information systems course.
First-year master in health administration students, from left, Tyler Mikell, Molly O’Quinn and Chesley Elliott, display the process map they built in their health information systems course.

This spring, the 38 first-year MHA students were assigned to work in small teams of two to three in collaboration with Jennifer Hooks, leader of the EHR performance improvement team, and Epic instructional designers, as part of their health information systems course.

Hooks provided classroom instruction to the students on the benefits of mapping work flow using the Lean methodology. Students practiced developing process maps and identifying waste before venturing into their hospital assignments. Working in 13 different areas of the hospital – some examples include phlebotomy, transplant, hemapheresis, labor and delivery, nursery and neonatal intensive care, the operating room, neurointervental radiology, and child life – each team constructed a process map of the current work flow, identified value-added and non-value-added steps, and offered recommendations for eliminating waste and improving efficiency. The students presented their process maps to Hooks and performance improvement facilitators, who critiqued their work and provided constructive input and feedback.

Epic team
Rebecca Freeman, R.N. (team leader), Lisa Ihnken (team leader), Donna Hollars, Amy McCain, Meredith Rankin, Melissa Rodgers, Laura Sargent and Quinton Irick

Performance improvement facilitators
Jennifer Hooks (team leader), Scott Brady, Rebecca Freeman, Mike Roudabush, Stephanie Sargent and  Shawanda Smith

The MHA students’ work provided valuable information for the creation of work-flow documents needed to begin the project. As the building of the system progresses, the details collected through the project will be valuable to the analysts building the detailed work flows. The end result will be an efficient documentation system with a high factor of usability. Additionally, the performance improvement team has gained the capability of understanding how the inpatient areas currently operate. This knowledge will assist in providing recommendations for improvements in developing a more efficient and effective patient and staff work flow process.

The students gained insight into the importance of evaluating work flow prior to implementing a new EHR, and they developed skills in Lean methodology and process mapping. The hospital benefitted from a cross-enterprise, interdisciplinary project that combined resources from the university, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the process improvement team and the employees who work with patients.

As MUSC continues to focus on greater continuity across campus and strives for more interdisciplinary collaboration, there should be future opportunities to bring departments and students together in such a way that benefits all involved.

May 22, 2013

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