Project management services

While most organisations at some stage or other engage in project management activities, project management in the healthcare industry has certain unique features. The most obvious feature which sets this activity apart in the healthcare industry is that in healthcare, the stakes are significantly higher. We are dealing with issues that could affect the well-being—and survival—of people, our patients.

A project differs from a strategy or an objective or a program in that it has a start and end date (with activities in between), a project leader who is accountable for its progress, and a budget sufficient to achieve its goals. It is important that all stakeholders are aware of these three criteria and are consulted at each step of the project’s progress.

Project management in the healthcare industry is particularly complex because if projects go over budget or off-schedule, this could impact on patients’ level of care. There may, for example, be ethical and legal issues should the security of patient confidentiality be compromised through a project to store patient data electronically.

All healthcare projects progress through four distinct phases:

  • Initiation and definition of the scope of the project, including projected costs, expected outcomes and anticipated risks
  • Plan the project with deadlines, responsibilities and budget allocation; determining milestones and measures of successful achievement
  • Execute and monitor the progress of the project against the plan, and adjust as necessary; ensure stakeholders are kept informed, and gain their approval at each step; ensure that the project conforms to regulatory requirements
  • Close the project by documenting the outcomes against the project plan, and review with stakeholders for the future.

Apart from the unique nature of patient care and safety as a consideration in all healthcare projects, there are other considerations such as the rising costs of healthcare, issues of affordability and medical insurance, and the need to provide quality services at the lowest cost. In addition, healthcare is—understandably— one of the most highly regulated industries. This regulatory framework impacts upon the scope and reporting of all projects, which may require prior approval from local or national government.
Of increasing concern is the shortage of trained personnel in the industry. While some of this shortage may be counteracted by the application of astute project management, there is a limit to the extent to which we may replace people with technology. The human factor will always be paramount in healthcare. However, the “human factor” also gives rise to human error, and healthcare facilities are increasingly prone to litigation as a result. Fortunately, one of the primary outcomes of good project management is the reduction and elimination of risk by establishing clean, efficient and documented processes.

Precisely because of the risks and the number of stakeholders involved, sound project management practices are essential in any healthcare facility, for the following reasons:

  • Project management establishes tested and proven processes
  • It is a planned process leading to continuous improvement and self-correction
  • It facilitates communication between all stakeholders—doctors, nurses and support staff—and improves relations between them.

With their wealth of experience across nine countries in different healthcare environments and regulatory frameworks, Eurohealth Systems can advise and assist in the identification and management of needed healthcare projects.