Excellence in healthcare derives from three major areas of expertise: clinical care, leadership, and operations. Although clinical expertise and leadership are critical to an organization’s success, here we focus on operations- how to deliver high-quality care in a consistent, efficient manner. Healthcare operations management has become a major topic for healthcare service providers and society. It already has and further will make considerable contributions to the effective and efficient delivery of health care services. We believe that the answers to many of the dilemmas faced by the healthcare system, such as increasing costs, decreasing profitability, inadequate access, and poor quality, lie within organizational operations- the nuts and bolts of healthcare delivery. The healthcare arena is filled with opportunities for significant operational improvements.
One of the main challenges in achieving healthcare operations excellence is to hold the gains. A strategy for holding the gains must be developed at the beginning of any operations improvement effort. Quantitative tools can now be applied, such as state-of-the-art data collection and analysis tools and problem-solving and decision-making techniques. Process and scheduling systems can be improved with six sigmas’, Lean, and simulation. Supply chain techniques will maximize value and minimize costs in operations.
The Challenge and the Opportunity
The challenges and opportunities in today’s complex healthcare delivery systems demand that leaders take charge of their operations. A strong operations focus can reduce costs, increase safety, improve clinical outcomes, and allow an organization to compete effectively in an aggressive marketplace. Many healthcare leaders have begun to address the gap between care and current practice and are capitalizing on proven tools employed by other industries to ensure high performance and quality outcomes. For major change to occur in the health system, however, these strategies must be adopted by a broad spectrum of healthcare providers and implemented consistently throughout the continuum of care-ambulatory, inpatient/acute setting, and long-term care.