At the center of its core, Health Care is the application of a general body of knowledge to the needs of a specific patient. For centuries, this knowledge was generally regarded as the property of the healing professions and the individual clinician, not necessarily of the health care delivery organization. Managerial practice also had a tendency to treat this knowledge as an attribute of the provider, thus focusing on the resources clinicians used as they provided care and on the hotel-type functions associated with inpatient institutions. That is, there was a deliberate differentiation between management practice, focused on business processes, and clinical practice, focused on the activities and decisions of diagnosis and treatment. Though often described as bureaucratic and incrementally changing, health care is also a very dynamic and innovative field. Around the globe, research scientists, private industries, academics, and governmental and nongovernmental agencies continue to work in innovating new ways to provide better care, find cures, and improve health. At the same time, health care delivery has been undergoing a gradual but important change. Patient care, once the domain of the individual practitioner, is becoming the domain of the care delivery organization. Additionally, the mission of these organizations is shifting. As science, technology, care processes, and care teams have become more complex and diverse, the way in which the activities of care are organized and the institutional context in which they occur have become an increasingly important determinant of the effectiveness and efficiency of that care. As a result, the object of management has changed. In response to these changes, health care managers have started focusing on the management of the care as well as the management of the institutions in which the care takes place, thereby creating a set of ‘Best Practices’ which are briefly described in this paper along with how the process of innovation is developing in the health care system.
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