Our population is booming and one of the establishments that bear its impact is our hospitals. Long queues, unattended patients, discontent relatives and aloof staff – this is a reality we cannot negate. Photos of patients lying on floor in media tell us about the dismal state of services in hospitals, especially the government hospitals where patients are more than what they can pay attention to. Private hospitals are also not immune to it, as cashless medical schemes have made formal medical services affordable to many. We cannot deny treatment, nor can we expand at our will; the most efficient way to manage the situation is introducing hospital operations management at your facility.
So what is it? Simple stating, operations management is a set of practices designed to monitor and manage all of the processes within the production and the distribution services, especially service development and the efficiency with which they are provided. Healthcare is an extremely diverse industry where institutions and practitioners offer services for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of injury, illness, disease, as well as other physical and mental impairments, including a wide variety of specialties focusing on specific treatments. Comprising primary, secondary and tertiary care as well as public health, access to healthcare systems is also impacted by social and economic conditions. Besides, policies and management of services also have an impact on how a healthcare system functions.
In June 2006, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report titled Hospital-Based Emergency Care: At the Breaking Point, highlighted the critical challenges faced by emergency departments in the United States, such as overcrowding, ambulance diversions, and inefficient patient flow and hospital operations. The IOM report recommended a few measures to improve hospital emergency care:
- Hospitals should adopt system-wide operations management principles to improve the quality and efficiency of care.
- Professional associations, accrediting organizations, and others should promote training in operations management for hospitals.
- The Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should develop standards to eliminate ED crowding, boarding, and diversion.
Healthcare operations management is crucial for the efficient functioning of health services, especially at a time when healthcare sector is undergoing a considerable amount of reforms. It is one of the most promising job opportunities to the educated youth of India who can contribute to control costs and improve quality of service provided to patients. The cost of healthcare delivery inflates because we do not appropriately apply operations management systems. And yet, we limit the price, and the quality of care is affected. A sound hospital operations management plan and its efficient execution can help us manage both waste and unsatisfactory quality of care.
One of the most important areas of focus for hospital operations managers is cost control. The current healthcare system is heavily dependent on technological and emergency-based treatment, which is often expensive and compels patients to shell out large amounts. The goal for operations managers in hospitals is to help strike a balance between necessary high-tech treatment and centers offering preventative services. Cost control also affects the levels and quality of services provided to patients. Erratic and inefficient cost management causes cut down on budgets and limits the technology and equipment that can be purchased and used to provide treatment. It is the job of the operations managers to rationalize costs to maintain adequate levels and quality of services at the hospitals.
Coordination with the medical staff and the patients is one other important job that hospital operations management does. The operations managers are the ones who deal with aggrieved patients or their relatives and settle their queries satisfactorily. We can hardly imagine how calm and patient one has to be in order to deal with situation where people’s lives are concerned. They also take stock of the inventory to check on the medicines and other supplies available to serve the patients better. Operations management plays a vital role in the healthcare industry. Right from facility operations to how efficiently they function, it serves towards providing adequate and reliable treatment to the patients, ensuring that formal medical services remain trusted and accessible.
The author is Dr. Shankar Narang, Chief Operating Officer, Paras Healthcare. – Medical Buyer Bureau