Agency will study health IT workflow

Doctors must make changes to adopt health IT

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will study how physician practices’ workflows are affected by adopting health information technology.

The agency is requesting comment for its study of the tools and methods used by small and medium-sized practices in redesigning the doctors' workflows to incorporate digital information and electronic health records, according to a request for information notice in the Federal Register.

Workflow is defined as the way work is performed and patient-related information is communicated. For example, if a doctor’s office begins using e-prescribing or clinical decision support software to replace paperwork, presumably it would change the way patient records are originated, stored and distributed within the office and to outside parties.

The agency said few standards are available in this arena.

“It is our understanding that there is currently no standard description of workflows for care processes that can be used to guide decisions of where and how to incorporate health information technology,” the notice published June 25 states.

The findings of the study will be incorporated in an “electronic toolkit” to be made available on the Internet to help doctors analyze how to adapt their workflows and practices to make the best use of health IT.

Comments are due Aug. 24.

The Health and Human Services Department currently is preparing to write regulations for defining meaningful use of health IT, which are expected by year’s end. The economic stimulus law provides billions of dollars in payments to doctors and hospitals who can demonstrate such meaningful use.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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