In many ways work flow is data flow. In the past when the data was on paper or film or even a plaster model, it (the data) could only be in one place at a time and moving it from place to place was time consuming and relatively expensive. Thus we assigned work to a specific place (like a front desk) and a specific person (the front desk person) to that place.
The result was the back office – front office divide. Work flow meant; where does the chart go and who does what task. Once a dental office develops a paperless (digital) system of records, charting, scheduling even impressions the work flow changes significantly. Digital data can be accessed anywhere there is a computer, in the back, at the front or in a different building. Workflow can now be described in terms of tasks not places. Tasks can be assigned to a person or to an e-service. People are freed from the drudgery of filing, typing, looking for lost records, calling patients and doing all the rest of the busy work needed to keep a dead tree system working.
A great example of the evolution of workflow is the process of reminding or confirming patients:
Paper data and paper workflow: A team member collects all the charts for the next days appointments, looks up each phone number then calls repeatedly to confirm (remind) the patient.
Digital data with same old workflow: A team member clicks on each appointment in the electronic schedule, a number appears, the team member then calls repeatedly to confirm (remind) the patient.
Digital data digital workflow: An e-service calls or texts every patient on the digital appointment book every day with no human intervention needed.
E-services can be used to take payments, bill insurance, link up forms and data, re-activate patients and much more.
This new pattern of doing things has been called Front Desklessness.
Front Desklessness is not about tossing out a piece of furniture or eliminating a staff person. It is all about doing the business of dentistry in a different way because technology allows us to handle data in a much more efficient manner.