Process mapping is a valuable tool used to develop a visual representation or “map” of a process within a system. It allows teams to understand and analyse the entire flow of a process, whether it’s the patient journey or a diagnostic pathway. By involving different stakeholders who represent various roles, process mapping helps identify areas of improvement, such as duplication, variation, and unnecessary steps.

How to do it…

To begin process mapping, it is important to start with a high-level overview of the process, consisting of five to ten key steps. This initial map helps establish the scope of the process and highlight significant issues. The aim is to keep the map simple and clear, using symbols like boxes to represent activities, diamonds for decision points, and ovals to mark the start and end of the process.

While there are online tools available for process mapping, it can also be done using rolls of paper, marker pens, and post-it notes in a group setting. Engaging a diverse range of staff members, including clinical, managerial, and administrative personnel, ensures a comprehensive understanding of the process. It is beneficial to hold mapping sessions in a suitable location and consider the knowledge level of the participants, providing any necessary preparation to ensure their comfort and contribution.

When planning a process mapping session, it is important to define the purpose, invite relevant stakeholders, and consider the expertise required. Pre-meetings with clinical, managerial, and service leaders help ensure their involvement and commitment. The session should include representatives from staff groups involved in the patient care stage, including non-clinical roles. The choice of location, duration of the session, and the potential need for an external facilitator should also be carefully considered.

What next…?

Once the initial high-level process map is created, it serves as a foundation for further analysis. More detailed process maps can be developed to drill down into specific areas of concern. Stakeholder feedback and data collection may be required to analyse identified problem areas in more depth. The level of information and detail needed will depend on the project’s scope, and tools like driver diagrams or logic models can assist in clarifying and addressing improvement opportunities.

Process mapping serves as a crucial step towards initiating redesign and improvement. Once the process map is drawn, the focus shifts to identifying areas where the process can be enhanced through re-design or elimination of unnecessary elements. It is essential to keep the patient at the centre of the improvement efforts and consider the potential ripple effects throughout the organisation. Testing ideas for improvement and using tools like the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles can help assess the impact of proposed changes.