Featured ArticleIssueOct 21

Operations management

R Venkataramanan, Founder and CEO, Karkinos Healthcare talks about the dynamic healthcare ecosystem driven by external and internal forces

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The healthcare ecosystem is varied and complex, reliant on environmental, socio-economical, technology and human factors. At the heart of healthcare lies the human element, which defines the patient and doctor relationship.

Healthcare hosts a diverse pool of stakeholders ranging from doctors, clinicians, nurses, management, administrative personnel, emergency and paramedical support, interns and others who come together to provide the needed care for patients. The healthcare ecosystem is dynamic and driven by external and internal forces such as technology advancements, ageing, changing disease patterns, improved patient care and access, shifting patient demands and the need for data-enabled decision making, among others.

With the current pandemic situation, there has been a lot of focus on the right health care support and 24×7 availability of clinical services. The rising cases and demand of health facilities have seen healthcare leaders use a blend of management, clinical, social, behavioural and business competencies to address demand and rise to meet the situation. There is no one size fit for all models for healthcare management. However, a combination of existing models that fit the culture and work practices will foster efficient management. The goal is to get everyone moving forward together to a similar beat and to keep that pace over time.

The operations management needs to be supported by a trust-based governance model integrating patient empathy with managerial governance. The power distance between management and clinical staff often becomes a road map to rigidity and resistance as clinical staff perceive that any successful change must have a purpose and consider on-ground challenges. Since the clinicians, nurses and support staff share an emotional connection with their patients, they feel more connected with the operational changes when they perceive they are involved and can influence change.

Lack of shared purpose and understanding of value will bring resistance to change. A change with a strong, relatable purpose helps care staff understand and adopt new ways of working. Based on the culture of the health care organisation, the purpose can be defined together by management and critical care staff or communicated by leadership in multiple formats and forums.

The key building blocks for operation management are –
Leadership engagement
Engagement of department leaders/ stakeholders helps to achieve alignment. The building block will be one of the cornerstones for success, as leadership commitment and engagement will help establish a strong business case and implement a structured change approach.

Culture
Understanding the culture of healthcare institutions will be essential to crafting tailored actions. The correct assessment of the cultural attributes will help set the right change tempo while personalising and incentivising change for the staff.

Communication
A robust and relatable purpose translated into a clear communication plan will create a value story for the dashboard strengthening interest and staff commitment for the change initiative.

Staff training and handholding
Training will be another cornerstone for success to show the functional, behavioural, and social aspects to bring more patient-centric care.

Benefit management
A change plan with clearly defined outcomes will assist in measuring and monitoring progress while showcasing the return of investment. One of the most significant aspects of delivering a project is hiring the right people and getting a lean team in place with all the required capabilities. It is essential to set up a strong human resource department and have a rigorous hiring process to facilitate quality hiring. The senior leadership should spend significant time ensuring that any new person hired has the right cultural fit in the organisation and has a solid commitment to the cause they are working towards.

Lastly, it is important to keep the flow of information as fast and accurate as possible to all the concerned stakeholders. A clear governance structure and flow of information, thereby creating transparency and visibility across the organisation is essential. The operations management team should continue the initial momentum and highlight leadership commitment to the vision with a compelling story and value-centric communications, that is promulgated across the departments. Qualitativeand quantitative measures can track these operational outcomes to help periodically improve the patient experience and bring strong cohesion among the stakeholders.

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