Operations management services

The goal of operations management is to ensure the highly reliable performance of all systems, procedures and processes, performance that is both safe and of high quality. Excellence in healthcare delivery requires the ability to develop sound operations and manage for unexpected surprises which are a feature of complex healthcare delivery organisations. Almost by definition, healthcare organisations are hazardous environments. It is only through a process of continuous adaptation, problem solving and improvement that such organisations succeed in meeting the increasing demands for higher quality service delivery.

Operations management in pursuit of excellence in service delivery seeks to identify and eliminate sources of variance. This requires a clear understanding of the nature of the work and how it is accomplished. This is the study and practice of operations management. 

The ability—and skill—to anticipate what could go wrong in any process is within the scope of one of the tools of operations management, namely the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Simply stated, an FMEA is a structured approach to investigating potential failures that may exist within the design of a product or process. Failure modes are the ways in which a process can fail. Effects are the potential consequences of such failure in terms of waste, defects or harmful outcomes for the patient. Such an analysis may be applied to a process, a service, a design or an entire system. The FMEA has the added advantage of identifying and involving all stakeholders in a particular process, gaining their input on potential system problems, and jointly arriving at a solution and protocol for its solution or improvement, thus improving communication within the organisation.

The strategy developed by Eurohealth Systems to address operations management services focuses on four key and interrelated elements: quality, cost, timely delivery of services, and flexibility.

The ability to anticipate problems is only part of the solution to sound operations management. The best organisations acknowledge that people-centred operations—such as that of a healthcare facility—by their nature are prone to unanticipated problems. This requires that the organisation develops resilience: the ability to respond flexibly, to reorganise and reallocate resources in order to continue functioning despite unexpected variations. This requires a company-wide culture of awareness and response to discrepancies or deviations from standard practice. In these resilient organisations, errors may happen—but they do not disable the organisation. The development of an organisational culture which recognises the importance of this type of awareness may require the nurturing of a new set of expectations and norms of behaviour, which in turn gives rise to new values, beliefs, attitudes and habits.

Eurohealth Systems has developed a wealth of organisational tools and practices to assist healthcare facilities to develop their own unique standard operating practices. The following are three areas of focus which impact on the level of care provided to patients and have received attention in the hands of operations management practitioners:

  1. Creating a productive environment of care, which pertains to the design and layout of the facility, the equipment needed to deliver optimum levels of treatment, and the human resource capacity in terms of skills and training;
  2. Reducing clinical variability by optimising inventory levels, reducing supply costs, and balancing workflows; and
  3. Implementing comprehensive data capture systems, enabling appropriate patient information to be stored and shared as necessary.