Process management in healthcare: investigating why it's easier said than done
Journal article, 2010
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate what happens when a new management idea with manufacturing origin is implemented in a healthcare organization. In this paper, it is focussed on process management: what happens when the processes are highlighted, process owners are appointed and more power is allocated to the process dimension of the organization.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses the case of a hospital group in Sweden to investigate difficulties in implementing process management. The studied hospital group has been involved in systematic fundamental change to the system for nearly a decade. The research project was conducted using a collaborative management research approach in which academic researchers worked together with the development director.
Findings – The paper shows that the organization itself in many ways becomes an obstacle to the achievement of a process-oriented management style. In the empirical story, voices from the healthcare staff reveal conflicts over organizing principles and structures such as budgeting and reimbursement systems – systems obviously built on a more functional view from an organizational perspective. It is not completely evident that the two alternative perspectives are able to co-exist easily – managing them seems to be an advanced balancing act.
Originality/value – The paper provides an illustration of knowledge transfer from manufacturing to service industries. It focuses on the meeting between a Swedish healthcare organization and the idea of process management.