Guest Column | October 28, 2015

5 Project Management Lessons For Healthcare

HITO Andreas Tremel, InLoox

By Andreas Tremel, Co-Founder and CEO, InLoox

Constant technological and medical advancements are catapulting healthcare into rapid and continuous change. When factored with the high number of stakeholders who have different expectations towards the industry (doctors, nurses, patients, insurers, investors, etc.), the task of keeping a large hospital network — including internal and external constituents — managed effectively can seem daunting. A healthcare leader needs to take into account the different interests of all represented parties and balance them while maintaining a high standard and providing the best possible care. Thus, planning is key for the healthcare industry to function and project management methods can provide assistance.

Project management offers a variety of methods and tools that hospital leaders can implement to increase the quality of the care and optimize processes in a hospital. However, staying focused on how best to execute project management methodologies is often hard, especially when being under time, budget, and legal constraints. So, let’s take a look at five project management lessons worth incorporating into healthcare.

  1. Think Like A Project Manager
    A project manager’s main role is to create project plans and implement projects successfully. To do so, a project manager needs exceptional communication skills and the ability to manage teams. Healthcare teams are often extremely diverse, from personal to professional backgrounds. That makes managing and coordinating teams a challenge, which is why communication and other soft skills such as emotional intelligence are key. However, hard skills such as calculating budgets and anticipating risks are just as important. Choosing the right project management method, such as the Waterfall method, Agile, or Lean Management, can help hospital leaders increase the efficiency and effectiveness of processes throughout the hospital.
  1. Task Management
    The task list of a hospital is extremely long and varied. In each department there are different tasks that have to be done, and each person in a hospital inhabits a different role and has different responsibilities. A nurse’s responsibilities are not the same as a doctor’s. Each doctor has a different job as well — a cardiologist’s tasks differ vastly from those of an anesthesiologist. This makes planning and coordinating tasks a big challenge. Even more so because some tasks are dependent on each other. For example, when a patient is released there is a whole procedure that has to be followed before a new patient can check-in. The beds must be exchanged, the room has to be cleaned and disinfected completely, and so on. Identifying dependencies between tasks is vital for a failure-free procedure which is paramount for a hospital. Having the right software to create and schedule task plans that factor in dependencies and show critical tasks is extremely helpful. Another benefit of an application is that you can easily create charts to visualize tasks so that everyone can determine the high priority ones immediately.  
  1. Time Management
    Time management is probably one of the most important aspects of management in the healthcare industry, particularly in a hospital setting. It’s essential to estimate time accurately. However, creating a schedule for so many people can prove difficult. Any delay can throw off the entire plan, but in a hospital, it’s inevitable. Emergencies are the rule, not the exception, which is why you need to include buffer times between tasks when creating a schedule as they not only allow time to adjust schedules if needed, but also help alleviate some pressure from employees. Working in the healthcare industry is very rewarding, but it’s no secret it’s very stressful due to the requirements of the job. Schedules need to include obligatory breaks because only then can employees work efficiently and effectively, and provide quality care for patients. 
  1. Resource Management
    Every person who works at a hospital can only do their job correctly when they are given the necessary supplies. An operation can’t take place without a doctor, neither without the necessary medical equipment. Medical supplies are of course the most important resources for a hospital, but resources also entail simple, but equally necessary, things like paper or mundane paper clips.  Resources equal costs and combined with tight budget constraints, it’s essential for hospital leaders to accurately calculate resource demands and how to best allocate these resources. Comparing the estimated and the actual usage helps managers make more accurate future estimates, and thus decrease unnecessary costs.  Resources are not only materials though; resource management software can also be used to track, estimate and manage the workload of the entire staff. This is especially beneficial to visualize bottlenecks caused by emergencies, staff vacation or sickness, or general shortages in personnel.
  1. Change Management
    Healthcare is constantly changing in order to adapt to the ever evolving digital age. With change comes great progress, such as the technological and medical innovations that bring us closer to finding cures for historically incurable illnesses. However, even though there are so many advantages of change, people often need time to adapt to changes. A lack of careful change management can lead to the rejection of change — which is not just inefficient, but also costly as every change implementation involves costs. So, how can you manage change effectively? The first step is to identify what kind of change you want to achieve, e.g. organizational, process, system etc. Remember that changes should not be made arbitrarily, they always need to serve a purpose: add value to the organization. For a hospital exchanging old for new machines means an increase in the quality of the care, or a re-structuring of administrative procedures means more efficiency and so on. Take into account the impact the planned changes will have on time, cost, and personnel, and identify what the risks are.  Some changes only affect one department, while others affect the whole organization. In order to seamlessly integrate change, it is important that that you communicate changes to your employees early on, get feedback and get buy-in from all that are affected by it.  

About The Author
Andreas Tremel, Co-Founder and CEO of InLoox, is responsible for strategic development and product development as well as for the company’s marketing and communication strategy. With over 15 years of experience in developing software solutions, Tremel has made InLoox’s priority to build a PM software that would add value to the standard procedures of task management.