Vital Signs of a Workflow System for Healthcare Contract Management

Thom Davidson

Healthcare Contract Management Vital Signs

An automated workflow system for healthcare contract management is, essentially, a software application designed to manage a series of repeatable business processes. In a contract management environment, this can be as simple as setting up an approval workflow so that whoever needs to approve the contract receives a notification and can view, edit, and sign the contract from their computer/tablet and smartphone. Or it can be a highly complex collections of tasks and subtasks drawing upon numerous people within and outside your organization. Clearly most healthcare organizations have a broad range of requirements in order to satisfy their responsibility for:

  • Automated compliance for review, approval and other processes
  • Monitoring process efficiency and identify bottlenecks
  • Delivering value and reducing time
  • Improving communication and collaboration
  • Following up on tasks automatically
  • Contract standardization
  • Maintaining security of sensitive documents

Let’s check some vital signs:

1. Straight Forward Design

Programs come in a variety of user interfaces. The application should:

  • Ideally, be able to be implemented and maintained without relying on your IT department or other technical resources.
  • Offer customizable configuration, integrated template steps, and drag-and drop capabilities.
  • Be capable of scaling from the simplest to most complex design and grow with the Organization.
  • Be designed to reduce frustration from users and lead to better productivity.

2. Flexible workflow designs for each step

Contract Workflow Steps

A workflow has a series of stages/steps. Since every organization has their own processes and approval paths, it is crucial to be able to create adaptable templates to meet the needs of the organization. Does it include:

  • Accountable and automated start, stop, and follow-through capabilities.
  • Customizable steps, parties, and requirements.
  • Selective supporting documents within the workflow offering easy quick link access for review/edit/approval.
  • Identifying parties, naming individuals, groups, and/or outside parties with the ability to accept/reject/override.
  • Documented and traceable edits and collaborations.

3. Configurable user permissions

The configuration of your user permissions must provide granularity, providing appropriate security options to maintain confidentiality and need to know access, yet allow participants to do their jobs effectively. Some permissions might include:

  • The ability to design the workflow routes.
  • Manage workflow statuses.
  • View Key Performance Indicators.
  • Assign requirements for a workflow step to proceed.
  • Allow controlled external user participation.
  • View and report on workflow agenda/history.
  • Automatic triggering such as locking a step or preventing the workflow from going forward if certain data elements are not completed.
  • Locking a document to ensure additional changes are not made after approval.

4. Notifications

Notifications offer the ability to keep parties informed and connected throughout the workflow process and offer quick access links to workflow steps. An effective system will offer several options that may include internal system notifications and collaborations, or externally through emails to parties, managers and/or outside parties of:

  • When a workflow starts, stops, and/or needs their attention.
  • Why a step was rejected.
  • Upon stage completions or delinquencies.
  • When responsibilities or tasks are to be completed.
  • When a process has been completed, accepted, and/or rejected.

5. Workflow Status and Reporting

"Where is my contract?" Answers to questions like that must be immediate and obvious to all participants in the workflow process. Reporting and on-screen presentations need to readily identify:

  • Current Step and when it started.
  • Step delinquencies.
  • Who is assigned to the current step.
  • Drill down capabilities to each step history with details:
    • Step status
    • Description
    • Attached documents
    • Assigned user/groups as well as their date and time stamp of approval/rejection
    • All collaboration
    • Summary of next steps

6. Key Performance Indicators

If You Can't Measure It, You Can't Improve It. Management thinker Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can't manage what you can't measure.” Drucker means that you can't know whether or not you are successful unless success is defined and tracked. This way you can find out what’s working well and what could be improved. Without the ability to track KPIs such as the ones listed below, your organization is leaving a lot up to chance:

Key Performance Indicator Chart
  • Time from contract initiation to signature.
  • Delays in approval and who is assigned.
  • Completed workflows. (Successful/Rejected)
  • Step statistics for each step of any workflow route. (Number successful, Number Rejected, Number in Progress, Delinquency frequency)
  • User statistics with breakdowns by workflow and by step.

A robust contract management system will track all of your KPIs, and also contain tools to measure other factors, from risk and compliance to contract performance. As a general principle, your KPIs should ensure that contracts are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based across the organization. It is suggested that you establish your goals quarterly and then review your KPI’s to measure your performance and define the next area of improvement in the workflow process.

Is it time to have a check-up on your contract workflow system?