Elephant Trails in Healthcare

Patients leave footprints in hospital information systems just like people leave footprints in grassy spaces. Desire lines, i.e., the tracks formed by erosion showing where people really walk, may be very different from the formal pathways. In Dutch such desire lines are called “olifantenpaadjes” (elephant trails). When people deviate from the official path there is often a good reason and room for improvement. The same holds for the elephant trails left by patients, doctors, nurses, surgeons. However, deviations of the official paths may also lead to patient risks, increased costs, and unnecessary interventions. Hence, it is good to investigate elephant trails in care processes using process mining.

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