‘What is project management’ is a pertinent question in healthcare management. Simply put, it is the process of planning, organising and then overseeing the work of a project team in order to achieve a particular objective within agreed timeframes and budgets. It is however not the process attached to the routine daily operations of a company.
Within the field of healthcare, project management refers to any project that looks to improve the functionality of any healthcare-related organisation. With the healthcare industry evolving on a continual basis, they are facing increasing pressure to save money whilst remaining efficient and making improvements to the quality of the care that they offer to their patients. This effectively means that healthcare systems and hospitals are always working on projects that will assist them in improving their operations.
When it comes to project management, the Waterfall methodology is one of the most commonly used methodologies, and one that is commonly used in healthcare. It works by organising a project into processes that are sequential and linear. In other words, they flow like a waterfall, and it consists of a number of different phases. When you undertake Waterfall methodology for your project, you cannot begin a new phase of the project until you have completed the previous one.
Agile project management was conceived within the field of software development. It uses an approach that is more incremental and evolves on a continual basis, unlike Waterfall. The cyclical process that it uses encourages experimentation, flexibility and adaptability. For many healthcare projects, this is a great methodology because it is easy to make changes to suit a range of continually changing variables. Agile can make it easier for project teams within healthcare to adjust more easily to these changes. Within Agile, the iterations are shorter, and this means that it is much easier to recognise a mistake in the early stages and correct it quickly.
Sometimes within healthcare, the best option is, in fact, a hybrid one. This is one that uses a combination of Agile and Waterfall in order to manage a project. When this happens, a project management team will use the Agile methodology predominately whilst incorporating some features of Waterfall in order to create a timeline and a roadmap for the project which can then be used by project managers and their team.
Project management, and therefore those individuals who have the relevant qualifications attained through courses for professional project managers, is incredibly important within healthcare. In fact, in recent years, its importance has grown, a growth which can largely contribute to concerns for safety. If a healthcare project is done in a manner that is ineffective, then this has the potential to lead to health problems for patients.
Healthcare is an evolving industry, and it is affected by a range of other issues as well, which can be increasingly aided through the use of project management. It is also important to remember that healthcare is a huge industry with an incredible degree of complex issues occurring all of the time.
Strong project management can be used to assist in improving healthcare and the industry in a range of different ways, including:
- Improving the quality of the care that is provided by making improvements to the processes that are used in that care
- Fostering better lines of communication between the healthcare staff who are looking after patients
- Improving planning within the organisation
- Better budgeting – project management that is strong aligns resources directly with the most important work
- Increasing staff productivity
- Improving the processes that are created in order to decrease the possibility of lawsuits (processes that are improved lead to better care)
- Improving relationships with all who are involved in healthcare, patients, staff, insurance companies
There are a huge number of challenges that are faced within healthcare, and many of these are things that can simply not be predicted for. Whilst it is possible to have contingency plans in place for major events that could put a significant strain on the resources within healthcare, for example, an increased and immediate need for additional services as a result of a major incident with numerous injured, it is never possible to fully anticipate exactly what that scenario will entail.
Poorly executed projects within the healthcare field can have serious implications because there is often human life involved. These are projects that are about more than coming in on budget and to timescale, and when they hit a problem that has an impact on human life, they also face the possibility of legal action. Healthcare is also continually facing rising costs and, at the same time, has to deal with a significant degree of regulation from the government.
One other significant issue that healthcare faces is that many of those who hold important positions do not actually believe that there is truly a place for project management within the industry.
Currently in use in thousands of cases within the healthcare industry, project management can be used to create better outlooks for a diverse range of projects, including making improvements to patient care, saving money or simply making improvements.
With the right levels of experience and project management knowledge, and that means staying on top of any new innovations within the field of project management, it is possible for healthcare to gain significant benefits from project management. At the very least, it can be used to help improve operational efficiency and ensure that patients receive the highest levels of care. There are so many different ways in which project management can be used within healthcare, and as training continues and improvements are made in the technology that is used, it is likely that there are more innovative ways in which it can be used in the future.