Dr. John Svirbely's blog post - Going from Zero to Success using BPM+ for Healthcare. 
                Part I: Learning Modeling and Notation Tools
Dr. John Svirbely, MD

Going from Zero to Success using BPM+ for Healthcare.

Part I:
Learning Modeling and Notation Tools

By Dr. John Svirbely, MD

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Welcome to the first installment of this informative three-part series providing an overview of the resources and the success factors required to develop innovative, interoperable healthcare workflow and decision applications using the BPM+ family of open standards. This series will unravel the complexities and necessities for achieving success with your first clinical guideline automation project. Part I focuses on how long it will take you to reach cruising speed for creating BPM+ visual models.

When starting something new, people often ask some common questions. One is how long will it take to learn the new skills required. This impacts how long it will take to complete a project and therefore costs. Learning something new can also be somewhat painful when we are set in our old ways.

Asking such questions is important, since there is often a disconnect between what is promoted online and the reality. I can give my perspective based on using the Trisotech tools for several years, starting essentially from scratch.

How long does it take to learn?

The simple answer – it depends. A small project can be tackled by a single person quite rapidly. That is how I got started. Major projects using these tools should be approached as team projects rather than something an individual can do. Sure, there are people who can master a wide range of skills, but in general most people are better at some things than others. Focusing on a few things is more productive than trying to do everything. A person can become familiar with the range of tools, but they need to realize that they may only be able to unlock a part of what is needed to automate a clinical guideline.

The roles that need to be filled to automate a clinical guideline with BPM+ include:

1 subject matter expert (SME)

2 medical informaticist

3 visual model builder

4 hospital programmer/system integrator

5 project manager

6 and of course, tester

A team may need to be composed of various people who bring a range of skills and fill various roles. A larger project may need more than one person in some of these roles.

The amount of time needed to bring a subject matter expert (SME) up to speed is relatively short. Most modeling diagrams can be understood and followed after a few days. I personally use a tool called the Knowledge Entity Modeler (KEM) to document domain knowledge; this allows specification of term definitions, clinical coding, concepts maps and rule definitions. The KEM is based on the SVBR standard, but its visual interface makes everything simple to grasp. Other comparable visual tools are available. The time spent is quickly compensated for by greater efficiency in knowledge transfer.

The medical informaticist has a number of essential tasks such as controlling terminology, standardizing data, and assigning code terms. The person must understand the nuances of how clinical data is acquired including FHIR. These services cannot be underestimated since failures here can cause many problems later as the number of models increase or as models from different sources are installed.

The model builder uses the various visual modelling languages (DMN, BPMN, CMMN) according to the processes and decisions specified by the SME. These tools can be learned quickly to some extent, but there are nuances that may take years to master. While some people can teach themselves from books or videos, the benefits of taking a formal course vastly outweigh the cost and time spent. Trsiotech offers eLearning modules that you can learn from at your own pace.

When building models, there is a world of difference between a notional model and one that is automatable. Notional models are good for knowledge capture and transfer. A notional model may look good on paper only to fail when one tries to automate it. The reasons for this will be discussed in Part 3 of this blog series.

The hospital programmer or system integrator is the person who connects the models with the local EHR or FHIR server so that the necessary data is available. Tools based on CDS Hooks or SMART on FHIR can integrate the models into the clinical workflow so that they can be used by clinicians. This person may not need to learn the modeling tools to perform these tasks.

The job of the project manager is primarily standard project management. Some knowledge of the technologies is helpful for understanding the problems that arise. This person’s main task is to orchestrate the entire project so that it keeps focused and on schedule. In addition, the person keeps chief administrators up to date and tries to get adequate resources.

The final player is the tester. Testing prior to release is best done independently of other team members to maintain objectivity. There is potential for liability with any medical software, and these tools are no exception. This person also oversees other quality measures such as bug reports and complaints. Knowing the modeling languages is helpful but understanding how to test software is more important.

My journey

I am a retired pathologist and not a programmer. While having used computers for many years, my career was spent working in community hospitals. When I first encountered the BPM+ standards, it took several months and a lot of prodding before I was convinced to take formal training. I have never regretted that decision and wish that I had taken training sooner.

I started with DMN. On-line training takes about a month. After an additional month I had enough familiarity to become productive. In the following 12 months I was able to generate over 1,000 DMN models while doing many other things. It was not uncommon to generate 4 models in one day.

I learned BPMN next. Training online again took a month. This takes a bit longer to learn because it requires an appreciation of how to design a process so that it executes optimally. Initially a model would take me 2-3 days to complete, but later this dropped to less than a day. Complex models can take longer, especially when multiple people need to be orchestrated and exception handling is introduced.

CMMN, although offering great promise for healthcare, is a tough nut to crack. Training is harder to arrange, and few vendors offer automatable versions. This standard is better saved until the other standards have been mastered.

What are the barriers?

Most of the difficulties that I have encountered have not been related to using the standards. They usually arise from organizational or operational issues. Some common barriers that I have encountered include:

1 lack of clear objectives, or objectives that constantly change.

2 lack of commitment from management, with insufficient resources.

3 unrealistic expectations.

4 rushing into models before adequate preparations are made.

If these can be avoided, then most projects can be completed in a satisfactory manner. How long it takes to implement a clinical guideline will be discussed in the next blog.

Blog Articles

John Svirbely

View all

All Blog Articles

Read our experts’ blog

View all

Learn how it works

Request Demo

Confirm your budget

Request Pricing

Discuss your project

Request Meeting