Clinical pathways have been widely used by since the 1990’s as a means to provide structured plans of client care based on best practices and clinical and program guidelines.
When designed and used properly, they provide a powerful means to enhance quality and efficiency of care and to measure and improve client outcomes based on evidence-based practice.
They are a necessary part of any electronic health record (EHR) system being considered for use by community-based health programs, home health programs, educators, and researchers.
Pathways represent a plan of care for a specific client group or population served by your agency or program, such as pregnant teens, migrant farm workers, drug-exposed infants, or tuberculosis patients.
They include identified problems common to the population, as well as a set of suggested interventions most often used with that population.
Ideally, the EHR system you use allows the clinician to then easily customize and develop individualized care plans based on the agency pathway, based on each client’s unique needs and a standardized terminology that allows clinicians, researchers, educators, and administrators to “talk the same language” and exchange information across different practice settings and populations.
What are the key advantages of using pathways?
Here are just a few:
- Clearly defines and reinforces standards of care/best practices every time they are used by staff
- Facilitates the training of students and new clinicians to your agency
- Allows the clinician to clearly prioritize problems and interventions for the client populations served by your program
- Increases the speed, consistency, and accuracy of documentation. Most common interventions can be “checked off” with some provision made to add client-specific information if needed.
- Supports and simplifies chart audits and reviews
- Facilitates outcome measurements to show others the good work you do!
Remember. . .
Literally hundreds of peer-reviewed pathways based on a standardized terminology such as the Omaha System are readily available, often online.
No pathway, no matter how well-written and current, is a “one size fits all” for every agency and program that uses it.
But strong evidence-based pathways provide excellent foundations for you to “tweak” as needed to reflect the most common client problems seen and interventions used in your program and to demonstrate the positive outcomes of your care.
Don’t get left behind on the health information exchange superhighway.
If your program is already not using pathways, NOW is the time to explore the use of EHR software like Nightingale Notes that includes a strong pathway component.