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What healthcare providers need to coordinate non-clinical workflows in HR, operations and procurement

Andrew Lawson Profile picture for user Andrew Lawson May 30, 2023
Advanced workflow tools and business process automation allow healthcare providers to optimize non-clinical workflows and improve employee productivity, writes Andrew Lawson of Zendesk.

Female Healthcare Professional In Office Working At Computer © Monkey Business Images - Shutterstock
(© Monkey Business Images - Shutterstock)

For doctors, nurses, care co-ordinators, and administrators, the hospital is a workplace. Like any workplace, there’s equipment that needs to be purchased (procurement), problems that need troubleshooting (IT and operations), and employees who need information and support (HR).

These non-clinical workflows — the ones we take for granted as patients — are surprisingly complex. Even something as simple as filing an invoice requires input from multiple departments and teams. Without a system to manage these workflows, admins can quickly become bogged down by repetitive, time-consuming tasks.

As the global healthcare industry battles a burnout crisis among doctors and nurses, hospitals and clinics need to make their internal processes more efficient and less frustrating. Simple tasks should actually be simple, and that requires more advanced software that can integrate seamlessly with your existing infrastructure (eg, financial systems) and automate basic functions.

Simplify the invoicing process with workflow automation

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is a regional NHS board that works with 10,000 suppliers and processes 500,000 invoices annually.

Its team tried a lot of different things to streamline the procurement workflow, including spreadsheets. A lot of teams try manual workarounds to fix their internal processes, but it almost never works. It’s frustrating for everyone, and there are too many opportunities for human error.

Bringing on a workflow management tool allowed the board to automate some steps in the process, like notifying the procurement team when there’s a new request. The Zendesk tool also integrates with their financial system, which saves them from having to manually re-enter invoice information.

The board also uses business rules to ensure that high-value invoices and invoices with early payment discounts are addressed first.

While these changes seem small, they add up when you consider the volume of requests and the impact across the entire organisation. When teams are stretched thin, you need to consider every step in the process, big and small, and look for ways to work smarter.

Give your employees the option to self-serve anytime

Creating an internal knowledge base of helpful information and FAQs can give doctors and medical staff the ease and flexibility to seek out answers when and where it works for them.

This can be helpful for quick issues that need to be resolved in the moment, like troubleshooting a computer so that a doctor can perform a telehealth visit. Telehealth and hospital-at-home care are on the rise, and healthcare organisations need to have tools in place so they can accommodate and support doctors and care teams from anywhere.

Documenting routine processes benefits your support staff too. When you keep a repository of internal knowledge, you save them from having to answer the same questions over and over.  This is called 'deflection', and it helps internal teams have more bandwidth to tackle issues that are the most urgent and complex.

Set performance benchmarks and create accountability for shared goals

When one of your medical staff has a question or problem, they should be able to expect prompt and helpful support. This requires close alignment among multiple departments so you can quickly triage, identify what’s needed, and respond. It also helps to have a log of who has been assigned to a problem and what steps have been taken.

Whether it’s an HR question or a tech problem, the goal should be to respond as soon as possible. You can set a goal to respond to employee service requests within 24 hours, and you can monitor adherence to your shared goal across different departments.

One Medical, a membership-based primary care practice, has an internal support team that fields nearly 2,000 tickets per month. With the workflows they set up in Zendesk, they can respond to email requests in less than two hours.

These types of performance metrics create accountability for your team, and allow you to align cross-functionally in pursuit of organisational goals.

Improving non-clinical workflows has become increasingly important as the healthcare system is feeling the pressure from labour and financial constraints. Optimizing internal processes can help the bottom line while also benefiting the doctors, nurses, and administrators who are the lifeblood of the healthcare industry.

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