So you might ask yourself where is this going? Well, even though my crystal ball seems a bit fuzzy at times this is what I think. If you look at the transformative nature of process, we can see the future by reviewing the medical industry work processes, that were once manual and very paper intensive, now completely digital and automated. The driving forces were cost of labor, storage, and speed.
Today, in the more advanced hospitals, the automated processes start at the initial interview with the patient. At that point of engagement, the patient information is updated, and all prior relationships with that person are analyzed to determine how that patient will be treated both from a medical point of view and financial. Once the patient enters the 1st phase of diagnostics, everything about the patient Is accessible to the caretaker and their support staff. Unfortunately, in our country, since we do not have a common record system, only the information that is captured by the hospital is available. Hopefully, in years to come, we will see a common patient record database that will track a patients history no matter where it takes place. England, from what I understand, has invested billions in a centralized system that does just that.
Testing and other diagnostic evaluations are immediately updated into the records and presented to the caretakers which provides a more efficient method of delivery of the information. Mobile devices provide the doctors and nurses with tools that can be leveraged to review the information and respond accordingly either to the care givers, patient, or collaborate with the testers.
As the patient moves through the process to release, all information, notes, images, and procedures are recorded and stored permanently for future engagements with the patient, or evaluating overall metrics of a particular study. All of this is done digitally, or without paper.
So what are the advantages. Probably the most important advantage is quality of service. Digital work processes provide a more efficient method of data collection and analysis so that the caregivers can respond to the patients issues with speed and accuracy that can only be done with digital records and work processes. Second, would be cost. The latest statistics show that processing a patient through a hospital cycle with automation can reduce the overhead cost substantially. Finally, Diagnostics. In radiology, which is highly used in diagnosis of a condition, digital automation has transformed that method of analysis. Radiologist can review images on ipads at a football game, giving the caregivers instant analysis of issues they are requesting consultation on.
So let's talk about the transition for a minute. Much of the same issues that general business faces in moving toward digital automation were and are being experienced in the medical field. Some of them are cost of migration vs return on investment. There are initial investments that need to be made in technology and personnel to move forward towards digital automation. These cost can be capitalized, however, with subscription based software, it is becoming more of an direct expense.
Second, is the "old guard". As with the medical profession, the "old" guys like their paper. I consider this generational, however, you have to factor in redundant processes until the age transition takes over. What do I mean by that. Folks in their 50's and 60's are going to be less adaptive than the younger crew. However, the older folks are the knowledge pool that a business needs. Understanding that not everyone is going to be happy with the digital decision, and they might create a road block, is going to be an important factor in transitioning. A great way to overcome this issue is with training. I had a client that brought in his staff, and their families, once a month for a "personal" training program. They taught them how to Google search questions, bank on-line, buy on-line, and other "App" functions on their issued smart devices so that the device would become integrated with their daily personal life. This gave them a pathway to introduce field automation and digital process without hardly any rejection.
Finally, is re-engineering the work processes. In every company, work processes are created, and often documented, for everything that goes on in a company. Most of these processes start out with paper and end with filing. In a digital business, ALL of those processes are fair game for re-engineering to digital, automated workflow. Better said, rewrite the standard operating procedures (SOP's). The best way that I have found to tackle this is to create a team of folks strategic to the operations of every department of the business. Then document each and every processes as it is now done. Then, re-imagine the process without paper, starting at the point of origin, through its final destination. But this time, look from back to front. Consider all the uses of data, and diagram the collection in the processes. Then, look at your existing technology and see if there are features or functionality that can be leveraged to accomplish your process. If not, you might want to consider an "App" or integrated application that would integrate with your existing software and provide the automated workflow that you desire.
The good news is that you are seeing new "No-Code" platforms that will provide a tool to build digital workflow processes without the need of custom programming. Omnidek and ServiceNow are several that come to mind. These tools will fill the gaps with your existing software's lack of functionality, and, provide a single user interface for multiple SOP's.
To conclude, moving general business to ECM, or electronic content management, is inevitable. For the same reasons stated above in medical, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of that transition. At this writing, the Covid pandemic has exposed the need for companies to virtualize, or to transition because of the placement of their human resources, information requirements related to remote processing, the need for digital reports and forms, and most importantly, the uncertainty of the future. Business must go on to survive, however, it will be different and those companies who adapt to digital work flow processes will be ahead of the curve.