Friday, September 14, 2007

Re-Engineering Office Tasks

When clerical positions are filled, a new employee basically learns how his predecessor performed a certain task. The job task itself is rarely examined or re-engineered because it is such a common, menial practice that no one pays much attention to it. Even though the working environment may change from typewriters to computers and be heading toward the "paperless office" of tomorrow, people take the same old approach to pushing paper from one desk to another.
Let's look at one simple task -- distributing reports -- which has been performed by Medical Record Departments for the past 30 yearsto see how that task might be re-engineered to save time, money, labor, and trees.

  • When a physician dictates a report on a patient, a copy of that report goes into the patient's hospital chart.

  • Another copy of the report is usually printed up for the dictating physician to take back to his office and place in the patient's office chart (if these copies are placed in the mail, postage becomes an additional expense).

  • If other doctors are involved in the case, the dictating physician might request that copies of his report be sent to several more physicians.
Back in the old days, doctors would request an additional carbon copy for their office. Even though the basic tools of the trade have changed dramatically (medical transcriptionists who generate documents on computers stopped using carbon paper many years ago), doctors are still requesting"carbon copies." Whether copies of a report are generated using a computerized word-processing program or a photocopier, printing and distributing these copies is a labor-intensive process which involves the following steps:

  • Copies of the report must be printed for each individual doctor.

  • These copies must then be sorted and distributed to the doctors, usually by placing them in each physician's mailbox.

  • The physician must manually carry these reports back to his office or wait for them to arrive in the mail.

  • The physician's office staff must then insert these copies into the appropriate charts and folders.

Each of these steps is extremely time consuming. And, because all information is being transported on free-floating paper, there is no way of tracking the information or re-using it without manually copying it from the chart.

Next: The Hidden Costs of "Doing It The Old Way"

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