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Project management in healthcare: 4 tips on how to effectively handle it

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If there is one type of management that is exhaustively different from the others, that’ll be medical management. The worst part is that it looks to be kinda the same: you have to coordinate your team, make sure the communication is there, take care of the paperwork, deliver quality service to clients, etc.

What is project management in healthcare?

Project management in healthcare involves the application of project management principles and methodologies to plan, execute, and oversee projects within the healthcare industry. This field addresses the unique challenges and complexities of healthcare projects, aiming to improve processes, enhance patient care, and optimize resource utilization. Here are key aspects of project management in healthcare:

Project Planning: Define project objectives, scope, and deliverables. Develop comprehensive project plans outlining tasks, timelines, and resource requirements.

Team Collaboration: Assemble multidisciplinary teams to ensure a holistic approach to healthcare projects. Foster collaboration among healthcare professionals, administrators, clients, and support staff.

Regulatory Compliance: Navigate and adhere to regulatory requirements and compliance standards specific to the healthcare industry. Ensure that projects align with healthcare regulations and quality standards.

Risk Management: Identify and mitigate risks associated with healthcare projects, considering factors such as patient safety and data security. Develop contingency plans to address unforeseen challenges.

Technology Integration: Implement and integrate healthcare information systems and technologies to enhance project efficiency. Ensure interoperability and data integrity within the healthcare IT landscape.

Patient-Centric Approach: Prioritize projects that directly impact patient care and outcomes. Incorporate a patient-centric focus in project planning and execution.

Resource Allocation: Efficiently allocate healthcare professionals, facilities, and equipment to optimize patient care. Manage resources to ensure timely project completion without compromising healthcare delivery.

Change Management: Address and manage resistance to change, considering the impact of project implementations on healthcare workflows. Engage stakeholders in the change management process.

Quality Improvement: Integrate quality improvement methodologies to enhance healthcare processes and outcomes. Measure and analyze performance metrics to identify areas for improvement.

Communication and Stakeholder Engagement: Establish clear communication channels among healthcare professionals, administrators, and project stakeholders. Engage with patients and their families as important stakeholders in healthcare projects.

Budget Management: Develop and manage budgets for healthcare projects, considering financial constraints and cost-effectiveness. Ensure that projects are financially sustainable and aligned with organizational goals.

Continuous Evaluation: Implement a continuous evaluation process to assess the success of healthcare projects. Use feedback and lessons learned to inform future initiatives and improvements.

Project management in healthcare is crucial for delivering high-quality patient care, improving operational efficiency, and adapting to the dynamic nature of the healthcare industry. It allows healthcare organizations to strategically plan and execute initiatives that positively impact both patient outcomes and the overall healthcare ecosystem.

Except that, it’s ridiculously more complex than that.

For one, your team isn’t the typical “let’s do this project” team – they are doctors and nurses, who deal with hundreds of patients regularly.

Two, the quality of service has to always, like always, be top-notch. Mishandling a patient treatment will cost you a gigantic lot more than mishandling a website design for example.

Three, if you want to make the comparison, medical management is like handling an insane amount of projects at the same time every day, which is equal to the number of patients in your clinic (every case is a separate case or a separate project for that matter) has for every given day.

Surely, a project manager can handle multiple projects efficiently, but multiple is a rather broad term. When referring to “basically any other business” projects, multiple usually stands for like 4, maybe 6 or 10 at most, for the same period.

How many patients do you think there are per doctor in the world? – 185.

That’s the average number of patients per doctor in the world. An average doctor can safely and effectively see three to four patients in an hour. Given that a typical workday in a clinic is 6 hours, that’s about 18-24 patients each day. Let’s take the average number of 20 from that range. Just hold on to that for a second.

Now an average clinic (yeah I know I said the word average more than enough times already, but I’m trying to make a point, stay with me for a little more on this, come on) in Canada has around 10 doctors.

Time for some advanced math guys.

On an ordinary day, an average clinic in Canada has to treat around 10×20 patients.

Daily, a medical manager typically deals with around 200 projects.

Is the number of projects that a medical manager deals with regularly, every day. Yeah, I didn’t write the word “hundreds” in italics at the beginning just for the looks.

Well, shit. That’s not exactly what I call “easily manageable” or even “remotely possible”. Still, this is important and needs to be done. So I think the obvious question is... How.

Well, sadly, there are things that even I can’t help you out with. You are on your own.

Just kidding. There is nothing impossible, guys, especially for managers and particularly, for health managers.

Here are a few tips that you can use to make your health management more efficient.

Learn to prioritize tasks like Spider-Man

Remember that scene in Spider-Man, when the Green Goblin puts him before a seemingly impossible choice of who he decides to save: the girl or a bunch of kids falling in a wagon?

The guy managed to do both (like any decent superhero as I’d imagine), but got to the more sensitive case first: if the girl hit the ground, she had no single chance of surviving, while the kids were inside a wagon at least (well, he was also madly in love with her, but let’s just cut that bit out).

Things that can be learned from this: every life is treated the same, but getting to help a patient in a more severe condition is the choice you have to make every time.

Value your time

As brutal as this might sound, you simply can’t “waste” time talking, explaining, and soothing each patient you deal with. Do that, and you risk mishandling other patients who might be in dire need. Now medical managers don’t typically deal with patients themselves, but they are responsible for coordinating and directing patients to doctors, so each minute counts.

Have somebody help you

Let’s face it. As much as you want to, it might simply be physically impossible to manage all of that stuff in a single day. For this purpose, you might want a nurse or two to help you with something. Now the important part is to decide what exactly you want (or can) delegate to nurses and make sure nothing will be at risk, even if the nurse (or you for that matter) messes up in some way.

Consider things that carry the least amount of responsibility, but soak up a lot of time. Updating patient cards, registering new patients, etc. are good examples of such tasks. Surely, every clinic is run in its own, unique way so this is the point where you will have to add some things to the list on your own.

Consider using Project Management Software for Healthcare

There is this ridiculous trend-like thing I keep encountering wherever I go: medical professionals avoid using advanced tech that isn’t directly related to patient care, treatment, or diagnosis.

You need to change this. Using project management software in your clinic can be tremendously efficient and you will be thankful you gave it a try. All the paperwork will be finished, there will be no more lost patient cards, incorrect inputs, wrongly administered drugs, or any other confusion.

You will not only speed up the whole process but also relieve some stress and decrease error margins. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

Health management may be the toughest manager’s position out there, but it’s also the most rewarding. And I’m not talking about money. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing that look of sincere gratitude in the eyes of people that you helped deal with some kind of health problem.

I’m a doctor. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about -)

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