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Modularizing specialized hospital services: Constraining characteristics, enabling activities and outcomes

Katariina Silander (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, HEMA-Institute, Aalto University School of Science, Espoo, Finland) (University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)
Paulus Torkki (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, HEMA-Institute, Aalto University School of Science, Espoo, Finland)
Paul Lillrank (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, HEMA-Institute, Aalto University School of Science, Espoo, Finland)
Antti Peltokorpi (Department of Civil Engineering, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland)
Saara A. Brax (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Aalto University School of Science, Espoo, Finland)
Minna Kaila (Public Health Medicine, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 5 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Modularity promises to relieve problems of complexity in service systems. However, limited evidence exists of its application in specialized hospital services. The purpose of this paper is to identify enablers, constraints, and outcomes of modularization in specialized hospital services.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative comparative study of a hematology unit with modular service architecture and an oncology unit with integral service architecture in a university hospital is performed to analyze the service architectures, enablers and constraints of modularization, and outcomes.

Findings

A framework and five propositions combining the characteristics of specialized hospital services, enabling activities, and outcomes of modularization were developed. Modular service architecture was developed through limiting the number of treatment components, reorganizing production of standardized components into a separate service unit, and standardizing communication and scheduling in interfaces. Modularization increased service efficiency but diluted ownership of services, decreased customization, and diminished informal communication. This is explained by the specific characteristics of the services: fragmented service delivery, professional autonomy, hierarchy, information asymmetry, and requirement to treat all.

Research limitations/implications

Modularization can increase efficiency in specialized hospital services. However, specific characteristics of specialized care may challenge its application and limit its outcomes.

Practical implications

The study identifies enabling activities and constraints that hospital managers should take into account when developing modular service systems.

Originality/value

This is the first empirical study exploring the enablers, constraints, and outcomes of modularization in specialized hospital services. The study complements literature on service modularity with reference to specialized hospital services.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was a part of an Energizing Urban Ecosystems research program carried out by RYM Ltd, Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation for Built Environment. The research program was funded by Tekes and partner companies. In addition, the study received funding from Academy of Finland (Grant No. 274,327). The funders had no part in planning or conducting the study or analyzing the findings. Finally, the authors express gratitude for the constructive and insightful criticisms provided by the anonymous reviewers.

Citation

Silander, K., Torkki, P., Lillrank, P., Peltokorpi, A., Brax, S.A. and Kaila, M. (2017), "Modularizing specialized hospital services: Constraining characteristics, enabling activities and outcomes", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 791-818. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-06-2015-0365

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited