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Managing Workflow Using Database Techniques

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000118044D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Aug-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Mar-31
Document File: 4 page(s) / 123K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Galtzur, Z: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

The effective management of workflow is a major concern in organizations where expensive resources, both human and machine, are deployed. A typical such organization is a radiology department in a hospital. Work-items are sets of medical images (exams) performed on patients. Such sets are also termed studies. Each study has to go through several stations where it is diagnosed, attached with a printed report, and moved to the specific clinics and referencing physicians.

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Managing Workflow Using Database Techniques

      The effective management of workflow is a major concern in
organizations where expensive resources, both human and machine, are
deployed.  A typical such organization is a radiology department in a
hospital.  Work-items are sets of medical images (exams) performed on
patients.  Such sets are also termed studies.  Each study has to go
through several stations where it is diagnosed, attached with a
printed report, and moved to the specific clinics and referencing
physicians.

      The management system described here uses database techniques
to process lists of work items and to provide simple yet effective
management of workflow.

Workflow in the system is defined as follows:
  o  A system is composed of work-items.  Each work-item is
      defined as having a finite set of attributes, some of
      which relate to its information contents (i.e., pointers
      to image data, information about the imaging devices,
      etc.).  Some of the attributes relate to the status of
      the work-item.
  o  Work-items are organized into work-lists according to
      the work needed to be done no them.  As a result of
      working (processing) these work-items, the values of
      their attributes are changed, and thus their status
      changes too.
  o  When work-items change their status, they are assigned
      to new work-lists.
  o  There is a set of processors which work on the work-items;
      each picks work-items from a specific list.  There may be
      many processors in the system, which may share the same
      work-list.

      The order in which items in a work-list are processed is not
important, so they may be served in First In-First Out (FIFO), Last
In-Last Out (LIFO), or random order.  Also, the processors or servers
performing the work on the work-items may be programs, humans, or a
combination thereof.

      Each work-item has a set of attributes.  Some of these
attributes relate to its content, and some relate to its state.  In
the case of radiology studies, the images and other patient and
imaging parameters are such attributes.  Attributes which relate to
its state can be such as defining whether the study has a report, and
the report status, and whether the study is already processed by
someone, and so forth.  We store these attributes in a database,
where each item (i.e., study) is a record, an attributes are fields
of this record.  Each item is uniquely identified, and while not all
attributes are need to be stored in the database, the status-related
attributes must be stored in order to facilitate control of the
work-flow.

      A query to the database binds several of the attributes to
specific values or range of values, and results in a list of items
which match it.  An item matches a query when...