Process management in healthcare: investigating why it’s easier said than done

TitleProcess management in healthcare: investigating why it’s easier said than done
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsHellström A, Lifvergren S, Quist J
JournalJournal of Manufacturing Technology Management; Bradford
Start Page499
Date Published05/2010
Type of ArticleFeature
KeywordsBest practice, Health care industry, Management science, Studies

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 focused 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. 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. 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. 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.