Sterile Matters: Systems thinking in healthcare

By: March 1st, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Healthcare entities are complex entities. They are comprised of numerous departments that can be dependent on another. This requires a unique approach to its operational execution. It requires management to help ensure business is conducted in fashion that ensures all of its interdependent units are working well both independently and jointly. It requires “systems thinking.”

Often departments, especially more technical in nature, tend to work in near isolation. This causes several concerns:

  • It contributes to communication failures.
  • Poor practices can develop as a result of not understanding or keeping other departments’ considerations or characteristics in mind.
  • Resentments between units can build.
  • Poor purchasing decisions can be made.
  • Staffing levels can be askew.
  • Department service expectations and delivery might not conform with requirements.

These are just a few of the direct and indirect results of not keeping the business as a whole in consideration while conducting general operations.

However, all is not lost if you have room for improvement. Here are a few helpful hints to begin the practice of working as part of a system verses just as part of a singular department:

  • Include all key stakeholders when considering a change in your business/service functions.
  • Challenge yourself more by asking ‘Have I thought of every person or department that could be affected by this decision or action?’
  • Solicit feedback on current performance.
  • Process map your critical functions. Process maps help to highlight less obvious independencies within your department and organization. This allows mitigations to be developed and/or implemented to reduce risks such as process or business failures.

These few suggestions can help to make the difference in how well your business/ department respects and works with others within your facility. This includes helping to improve the overall operations of your department and even can help to strengthen your business relationships. When the each department works as part of the collective whole, better outcomes become realized!


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