Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Find any document in your hospital in five clicks?

It's December. The squirrels have gathered their nuts. The leaves have fallen. People are having their holiday parties. It's a time for reflection, as we anticipate the new year 2011 that lies ahead. Healthcare is changing faster than ever before, and those who want to survive, need to keep up.

I've spoken in previous blog posts about the tools we commonly use to deliver care in modern healthcare. So as I've been thinking about how to streamline organizational efficiency in healthcare, one of the major challenges most hospitals face is : How do we manage all of this information?

Some people will immediately look to IT for solutions, since we think of information as living inside a computer, but IT can only build a system as organized as you ask them to build. The problem is : If you had chaos before, making things electronic will only perpetutate the confusion.

(I've spoken to plenty of healthcare informatics types who complain about not being able to navigate their web sites, shared electronic folders that never get updated, and not having "intuitive" organization of their information.)

I find the comment, "We don't have intuitive organization of our information" particularly interesting. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what is intuitive.

All of this speaks to the need for standardization in healthcare, and education to support those standards. (Nobody teaches this stuff in medical school, nursing school, or pharmacy school.)

So I hope I've attracted your attention with the title of this blog. My proposal : We develop a standard "document tree" that can be used to organize virtually all of your hospital's information. (Except emails, of course, which generally are private and not shared.)

The Healthcare Informational Tree

So I thought about all of the common tools we use in healthcare (the CMIO's Checklist and the Informatics Toolbelt), and sorted them first by function and then by division (Clinical versus Administrative) - And this is what I got as a final list :

  1. Telephone Numbers - Tools to contact a person
  2. Emails, Screen Savers, and Posters - Tools to help send a short message
  3. Schedules - Tools to show who is responsible at what date/time
  4. Policies and Procedures - Tools to learn organizational standards and how to achieve them
  5. Guidelines - Tools to help educate and guide staff towards a desirable outcome
  6. Documentation - Tools to record and transmit information
  7. Orders - Tools to document and transmit instructions to deliver care
  8. Order sets - Tools to standardize and expedite the ordering process for a common clinical scenario
  9. Clinical Protocols - Tools to standardize and automate a clinical process
  10. Clinical Pathways - Tools to standardize care for a diagnosis throughout a hospitalization
  11. Education Modules - Tools to help educate patients/staff
  12. Templates - Tools to help make a document
  13. Wikis - Tools to organize information / links for a department
  14. Committee Charters - Tools to assign committee duties and responsibilities
  15. Committee Minutes - Tools to record committee activities
  16. Glossary of Terms - Tool used to learn definitions for common organizational terms

I believe that by using the above directory/tree hierarchy, you could arrange your tools on your intranet in a way that you can essentially find any document in your hospital in five clicks - Each link, from this main page, then divides up into clinical and administrative divisions, e.g. :

  • Clinical Templates = e.g. Admission H&P template, Procedure Note template, Transfer Summary template, etc.
  • Administrative Templates = e.g. Policy and Procedure template, employee evaluation template, etc. 


  • Clinical Documentation = e.g. Admission H&P, Procedure Note, Transfer Summary, Vitals Flowsheet
  • Administrative Documentation = e.g. Employee Evaluation Form, Room Change Form, Maintenance Request Form


  • Clinical Policies = e.g. Pharmacy Policies, Infection Control Policies, Nursing Care Policies, etc.
  • Administrative Policies = e.g. Human Resources Policies, Safety Policies, etc.

The interesting thing about making such a tree is it shows you, pretty quickly, how much work you are actually doing in your hospital, how much it actually takes to run a hospital, and why you need people to worry about all of these tools.

It also can help you find your work products much quicker, and it interfaces nicely with the tools that you need to make a change in the clinical setting.

Adopting such a tree is not a small project, but it sure can tidy up your intranet homepage. It also helps reinforce informatics education by making almost everyone in your organization review the basic tools you use, and what they do, every time they look for something. By having centralized publishing, this also helps keep your intranet a "high-value" site that people will use to find things.

As someone who wants to see American healthcare be the best that it can be, I think it's an admirable goal. Those of us working to organize Health2.0 should be keeping this tree in mind as we develop our healthcare informatics policies.

Remember, my advice is free, and you get what you pay for. Your mileage may vary. :)

Would love to hear comments about potential additions/changes you would make to the tree at your organization! :)

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