What is Workflow?

In the previous post, we discussed Business Process Management (BPM) and why it’s important for your business.   Many people think of workflow when they hear BPM, and vice versa.   However, these two concepts are different, depending on your goals.

Workflow Defined:

Workflow is a sequence of steps that track the progress of work being done.  Usually, this “work” being done is the processing of a form or series of forms.   Workflow is typically an electronic way to do what was formerly done using paperwork.


When you walk into a doctor’s office, the first thing you do is go to the little window and they hand you a clipboard.   You proceed to fill out the following forms:

  • Personal Information (Name, Address, Phone Number, Insurance, etc).
  • Family / Personal Medical History
  • Issue that you are at the Doctor’s office for that day.
  • Any other forms they may have in addition.

Next, you hand the forms back in, and someone enters all of that data into the system (while you sit and watch soap operas and look through old Cosmo and Golf Digest magazines).

Once the Data is in the system, you are assigned an exam room (where you will wait, yet again).   Once the doctor arrives to your exam room, he reads your clipboard on the door and walks in the room with a little bit of knowledge about why you are there.

This may not be “exactly” how it works at your hospital, but it’s an example of a paper and manual process.    At anytime, you can walk up to the window and ask, “when will it be my turn?” and the staff can (maybe) tell you how much of your paperwork they’ve processed.

The Benefits of Workflow:

Workflow allows your doctor’s office (for example) to provide you digital versions of these forms that can be filled out via a kiosk or tablet at the window.  Once your data is entered into the form, it can automatically be submitted (all data automatically entered into the back-end systems) and a room can automatically be assigned in round-robin format (or other organized fashion).

Benefits of this scenario:

This simple workflow could, potentially, provide you, the doctor’s office, and the staff, with the following benefits:

  • Reduce patient wait times by up to 30 minutes.  (More if you’ve visited before, because your data is already in the system (including medical history).
  • Increase the number of patients that a doctor can treat in one day.
  • Reduce human error when doing data entry into the system.
  • Increase privacy when forms are filled out.
  • Reduce paper records storage space and associated costs.
  • Improve patient scheduling.
  • and more…

In the Next Post, we’ll talk about how you can use Workflow and BPM together, with SharePoint!!!

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