Flowchart

Also Known As: 
Activity Diagram
Cross-Functional Flowchart
Process Flowchart
Process Map
"Swim Lane" Flowchart
Examples: 

Common Office Visit (PDF, 34KB)

Flowchart Incoming Calls (PDF, 432KB)

In-Office Prescribing Flowchart - Electronic System (PDF, 475KB)

In-Office Prescribing Flowchart - Paper System (PDF, 251KB)

Nurse-Only Visit Flowchart (PDF, 38KB)

Patient Check-In Flowchart (PDF, 36KB)

Patient Check-Out Flowchart (PDF, 36KB)

Physician Assistant (PA) Office Visit Flowchart (PDF, 38KB)

Post-Appointment Lab Visit Flowchart (PDF, 49KB)

Prescription Renewal Request Flowchart - Electronic System (PDF, 503KB)

Prescription Renewal Request Flowchart - Paper System (PDF, 512KB)

Description: 

Flowcharts visually convey the the steps in a process.

Uses: 

To show the steps in a process.

To find one or multiple sources of a problem or identify potential areas for improvement.

To examine the handoffs that occur in a process.

To identify personnel, groups, or entire departments that are responsible for processes or tasks.

To demonstrate current processes and aid in identifying areas for improvement.

How do I use this tool?: 

1. DEFINE THE PROCESS that will be represented in the flowchart.

2. DETERMINE ALL INDIVIDUALS, DEPARTMENTS, AND GROUPS INVOLVED in the process. These are referred to as "players."

3. BRAINSTORM THE STEPS in the process. The specific sequence is less important than determining all of the steps at this point (although thinking sequentially may help identify any missing steps).

4. CONSTRUCT THE FLOWCHART GRAPHICALLY using rows or columns corresponding to the associated work units (e.g., provider, nursing). Ideally this will be laid out in a sequence in which players working with one another will be adjacent to each other.

5. ARRANGE THE STEPS SEQUENTIALLY. Place the card with the first step in the column or row that corresponds to the player responsible for it. The second step should be placed further along in the process to show that it occurs later in time, opposite that step's player. Continue in this fashion until all the steps have been placed in the respective lane of the responsible player.

6. DRAW ARROWS between cards to show the process flow. Keep in mind that some steps may involve two players: "Ted telephones Mary." For these, make a second card to place opposite the second name. Write the action from the second player's point of view: "Mary receives a phone call."

7. REVIEW THE FLOWCHART and validate its accuracy with other individuals who are actually involved in the process.

Expertise Required: 
This tool is easy to use and requires little or no training.
Recommended Supplies/Materials: 
Flip chart
Index cards
Advantages: 

Shows areas that can be improved.

Allows staff to clearly visualize their roles.

Identifies WHO completes each task in addition to what gets done.

Demonstrates whether the flow of events makes sense and is smooth or if there is a lot of back-and-forth (numerous handoffs) between players.

Easy to learn and create.

Highlights areas where decisions must be made.

Shows which parts of a process are redundant or out of place.

Disadvantages: 

Requires in-depth knowledge of the process.

Does not show value.

Where can I go to learn more?: 

Andersen B, Fagerhaug T, Henriksen B, et al. Creating a cross-functional flowchart. In: O'Mara P, editor. Mapping work processes. 2nd ed. Milwaukee, WI: ASQ Quality Press; 2008. p. 61-8.

Lighter DE. Process orientation in health care quality. In: Moore C, editor. Quality management in health care: principles and methods. 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2004. p. 43-101.

American Society for Quality. Process analysis tools: flowchart. 2009 [cited 2009 June 24]; Available from: http://www.asq.org/learn-about-quality/process-analysis-tools/overview/flowchart.html