Research Activities February 2013, No. 390

Researchers develop a task list to evaluate primary care workflow

Primary Care

To maximize the usefulness of health information technology (IT) and quality improvement efforts, primary care clinics need tools to assist workflow analysis, so that they can plan for changes like electronic health records and the patient-centered medical home. One such tool is a generic clinician tasklist of activities performed in clinics so that those interested in studying their workflow have a template of tasks from which to work. To meet this need, a team of researchers led by Tosha B. Wetterneck, M.D., M.S., of the University of Wisconsin developed a comprehensive but generic list of primary care physician (PCP) tasks that occur during a face-to-face patient visit. The list can be used as a workflow evaluation tool by health care professionals and organizations. The researchers developed the list based on two observational studies of 30 PCPs in 17 internal medicine and family medicine clinics in Wisconsin and Iowa.

The final task list has 12 major tasks defined by action verbs and 189 subtasks providing the object of the action for a grand total of 191 possible tasks. This list provides information about the types of tasks being performed, the sequence in which the tasks might be performed, the data sources used by the physician for a given task, and the contributions of other persons (e.g., medical students or caregivers) to the physician-patient visit.

The list is intended to be a flexible tool to assist individuals or groups in analyzing physician workflow before and after changes to the structure and processes of health care delivery, for example, implementation of electronic health records. It can also be used alone or in conjunction with other workflow analysis tools to gain a deeper understanding of a PCP's workflow, to see where problems lie, and where improvements can be made. This study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS17014, HS17115, HS17899).

See "Development of a primary care physician task list to evaluate clinic visit workflow," by Dr. Wetterneck, Jamie A. Lapin, M.S., Daniel J. Krueger, Ph.D., and others in BMJ Quality and Satisfaction 21, pp. 47-53, 2012.


Page last reviewed February 2013
Internet Citation: Researchers develop a task list to evaluate primary care workflow. Content last reviewed February 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.