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Business process improvement methods in healthcare: a comparative study

Ehab Seed Ahmed (Department of Information System, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor, Malaysia) (Department of Health Informatics, Health Information System College, Inaya Medical Colleges, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
Mohammad Nazir Ahmad (Institute of Visual Informatics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia)
Siti Hajar Othman (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor, Malaysia)

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Article publication date: 10 June 2019




According to the literature concerned with this study, less than satisfactory outcomes have been achieved through implementing business process improvements methods (BPIMs) in industries, in general, and in healthcare, in particular. The existing methods used need to be enhanced in order to create more effective outcomes. There has also been a lack of studies documenting gaps or shortfalls in implementing BPIMs, to be presented to the BPI research community. Therefore, researchers of this paper have attempted to fill gaps between theory and practice. On the contrary, there is also a need to link practical outcomes in the healthcare domain with those of the BPI research community. The purpose of this paper is to review popular BPIMs, techniques and tools applied in the healthcare domain; it seeks to examine and highlight their significant roles, clarify their pros and cons, and find opportunities to enhance their impact on the achievement of more sustainable improvements in the healthcare domain.


This study has been carried out by using a methodology combining an in-depth literature review with a comparison framework, which is called as the “Framework for Comparing Business Process Improvement Methods.” The framework is composed of seven dimensions and has been adapted from four recognized, related frameworks. In addition to the in-depth review of related literature and the adapted comparison framework, researchers have conducted several interviews with healthcare BPI practitioners in different hospitals, to attain their opinions of BPI methods and tools used in their practices.


The main results have indicated that significant improvements have been achieved by implementing BPIMs in the healthcare domain according to related literature. However, there were some shortfalls in the existing methods that need to be resolved. The most important of these has been the shortfall in representing and analyzing targeted domain knowledge during improvement phases. The tool currently used for representing the domain, specifically flowcharts, is very abstract and does not present the domain in a clear form. The flowchart tool also fails to clearly present the separation of concerns between business processes and the information systems processes that support a business in a given domain.

Practical implications

The findings of this study can be useful for BPI practitioners and researchers, mainly within the healthcare domain. The findings can help these groups to understand BPIMs shortfalls and encourage them to consider how BPIMs can be potentially improved.


This researchers of this paper have proposed a comparison framework for highlighting popular BPIMs in the healthcare domain, along with their uses and shortfalls. In addition, they have conducted a deep literature review based on the practical results obtained from different healthcare institutions implementing unique BPIMs around the world. There has also been valuable interview feedback attained from BPI leaders of specific hospitals in Saudi Arabia. This combination is expected to contribute to knowledge of BPIMs from both theoretical and practical points of view.



Ahmed, E.S., Ahmad, M.N. and Othman, S.H. (2019), "Business process improvement methods in healthcare: a comparative study", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 887-908.



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