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Process management in healthcare: investigating why it's easier said than done

Andreas Hellström (Division of Quality Sciences and Centre for Healthcare Improvement, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Svante Lifvergren (Centre for Healthcare Improvement, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden and Skaraborgs Hospital, Skövde, Sweden)
Johan Quist (Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 4 May 2010

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate what happens when a new management idea with manufacturing origin is implemented in a healthcare organization. In this paper, it is focussed on process management: what happens when the processes are highlighted, process owners are appointed and more power is allocated to the process dimension of the organization.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses the case of a hospital group in Sweden to investigate difficulties in implementing process management. The studied hospital group has been involved in systematic fundamental change to the system for nearly a decade. The research project was conducted using a collaborative management research approach in which academic researchers worked together with the development director.

Findings

The paper shows that the organization itself in many ways becomes an obstacle to the achievement of a process‐oriented management style. In the empirical story, voices from the healthcare staff reveal conflicts over organizing principles and structures such as budgeting and reimbursement systems – systems obviously built on a more functional view from an organizational perspective. It is not completely evident that the two alternative perspectives are able to co‐exist easily – managing them seems to be an advanced balancing act.

Originality/value

The paper provides an illustration of knowledge transfer from manufacturing to service industries. It focuses on the meeting between a Swedish healthcare organization and the idea of process management.

Keywords

Citation

Hellström, A., Lifvergren, S. and Quist, J. (2010), "Process management in healthcare: investigating why it's easier said than done", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 499-511. https://doi.org/10.1108/17410381011046607

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited