Organizing for Sustainable Health Care: Volume 2

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(16 chapters)
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Welcome to the second volume of the series “Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness.” This series addresses the practical issue of how to organize for sustainability and generates theory analyses, general principles, and guidelines for action. Volume 1, Organizing for Sustainability (2011), included a rich set of cases about organizations that were making fundamental change to achieve the triple-bottom-line challenge of simultaneously achieving viable financial performance and fostering social and environmental health. Each chapter illuminated the development of a sustainable system and reported theoretically informed and rigorously explored knowledge to guide purposeful organizational design and learning for sustainability. The chapters collectively highlighted the importance of well-designed processes, organizing approaches, management systems, and continuous learning approaches in complex systems.

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Purpose – This chapter frames the topic of organizing for sustainable health care in terms of the environmental trends that have rendered current health care approaches unsustainable, the embeddedness of health care in society's triple bottom line, and the need to build adaptive capability within the complex health care ecosystem.

Design/methodology/approach – We synthesize documented trends and empirical findings regarding the viability of current approaches to health care, and provide a theoretically framed treatment of the adaptation process in the complex health care system that can lead to the emergence of sustainable approaches.

Findings – There is a misfit between current approaches to delivering health care and the requirements and trends in contemporary society. Fundamental transformation is required that entails a broadening of purpose, a future orientation, and a rethinking of how health care adds value and how it is embedded in society.

Originality/value – By reconceptualizing health care reform as intricately related to societal sustainability and the triple bottom line, we open the possibility of transcending a narrow focus on reengineering to create more efficient organizations and work processes that consume fewer resources and deliver greater value. We invite health care practitioners and scholars to rethink all the connections in the health care ecosystem, and the need to build in self-organizing capabilities and adaptive capacity. The cases in this book provide knowledge from systems engaged in fundamental transformation, analyzed through the lenses of theoretical frameworks that help us better understand essential dynamics involved in creating sustainable health care systems.

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Purpose – This chapter argues that the concept of agility is an effective robust framework for designing sustainable health care systems.

Design/methodology/approach – This case study of Alegent Health was based on 7 years of data collection. It includes observations of meetings, large-group interventions, and other activities; site visits to different hospitals in the system to observe changes in practice; interviews with Alegent Health executives, primary care physicians, hospital presidents, specialist physicians and physician groups, and health systems staff and nurses; and a variety of archival data including meeting minutes, video tapes, conference proceedings, and web site material.

Findings – The Alegent Health system has evolved over time according to the principles of agility. It built a series of new capabilities that contribute to improved clinical outcomes, sustained financial results, and more socially and ecologically responsible results. Designing health care systems based on agility is a more effective and sustainable approach than relying on legislative or other criteria.

Originality/value – The discussion of sustainability in health care has focused primarily on specific projects or how to respond to specific technological, regulatory, or clinical changes. Alegent Health's experience provides important lessons, opportunities, and challenges that can help advance our understanding of effective health care and use organizational agility to create more sustainable health care systems. This chapter provides health care system administrators an alternative design option.

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Purpose – This chapter argues that health care is best conceptualized as a complex adaptive system. Sustainable health care depends on harnessing the complexity of the system by building aligned purpose, flexible pathways to connect people, knowledge and resources, and the capacity for self-organization.

Design/methodology/approach – The case study of the Southern California Region of Kaiser Permanente is based on three years of interviews and archival data collection examining the system's transformational change that began in 2004 and has been aimed at building a sustainable health care system with the guiding principles of value and prevention. The case focuses primarily on the medical care delivery system designed by the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, the capabilities that have been built into the system to continually improve the quality of care and the outcomes of the system, and the results that have been achieved.

Findings – During the period from 2004 to 2011, the region improved significantly in slowing cost acceleration by significantly improving medical care. The implementation of an electronic medical records system and its integration with other clinical information technology systems have enabled: (1) truly integrated, well defined, and easily navigated care delivery systems that are based on evidence; (2) upstream focus on prevention, disease control, patient education, and population health; and (3) management accountability and organizational improvement systems based on transparency of data and feedback. Physician leadership and partnering with the region's administrative and hospital leadership have been critical change enablers.

Originality/value – Embracing the complexity of the system has led to the crafting of pathways and linkages that enable patients to move through the system to flexibly and efficiently connect to the knowledge and resources required to optimize their health. This requires continual self-organization based on well-defined roles and connections. Previous health care improvement approaches have stressed initiatives and organizational changes that may further fragment the health care system.

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Purpose – This chapter examines the impact of technology on sustainable effectiveness by focusing on the dynamic synchronization between the technical and the social subsystems at the Villa Beretta Rehabilitation Hospital (VBRH) and illustrates that technology can trigger and enable sustainable health care organizations.

Design/methodology/approach – The case study of VBRH relies on several data sources. They include interviews with key informants (VBRH executives, health care professionals, and technology suppliers), follow-up e-mails and phone conversations, direct observations of actors’ behavior, and notes of processes in action and archival data, such as patient pathway protocols, technical information systems documentation, performance and managerial reports, and administrative guidelines.

Findings – VBRH was capable to dynamically synchronize the social subsystem with the continuous innovation of the technical subsystem. This capability enabled sustainable effectiveness in three main areas. First, the correct alignment between technology and professionals’ practices and behaviors improved triple-bottom-line performance by promoting a more conscious use of the environmental, social, and financial resources. Second, technology-based initiatives promoted research-oriented plans of action that nurtured a culture of change and continuous improvement. Third, technology facilitated the extension of the research and operation networks that generated new ideas and initiatives for achieving sustainable effectiveness. Additionally, evidence from VBRH demonstrated that organization design, change management, and learning mechanisms are essential when institutionalizing new technology that requires the disruption of current professional practices and individuals’ behavior.

Originality/value – Previous contributions about sustainable effectiveness in health care failed to unveil and frame the complexity of dynamic synchronization between the technical and the social subsystems that is at the core of the sustainability of health care delivery. This chapter provides new insights that pave the way for a deeper-level understanding of the role that technology plays in sustainable effectiveness dynamics and outcomes in health care delivery. The chapter illustrates how different groups of technology contribute to sustainable effectiveness and the mechanisms that make them work.

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Purpose – This chapter explores the use of adaptive and disruptive change strategies to create an integrated health care delivery system that is both economically sustainable and patient-centered.

Design/methodology – This case study of Montefiore Medical Center is based on a year of research that included focus-group interviews; individual interviews with executives, frontline staff, and union leaders; site visits; analysis of internal data; and a literature review.

Findings – Montefiore Medical Center is using both adaptive and disruptive strategies to develop an integrated delivery system driven by capitated payments from health insurance companies, a focus on primary care and chronic disease management programs, and community outreach. The growth of these delivery system components in conjunction with Montefiore's Care Management Corporation (to help manage the health plan contracts) has contributed to an affordable cost of care, improved clinical outcomes, and proactive patient and community engagement.

Originality and value – There is a paucity of case studies describing how safety-net hospitals – and health systems in general – can integrate the services they provide to create a positive, seamless, and economical patient experience. The story of Montefiore Medical Center offers an overview of how health care infrastructure and payment methods can be transformed to align financial and clinical incentives and to better serve a patient population that largely depends on government health insurance.

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Purpose – This chapter examines the developmental journey toward a sustainable health care system in the West of Skaraborg County in Sweden from 2008 to the present by proposing and illustrating the concept of a clinical microsystem to capture the work of a mobile team to care for elderly people with multiple diseases in its embedded context.

Design – An action research approach was adopted that entailed four researchers, one of whom was also a health care practitioner, engaging in iterative dialogues with the mobile team. This aimed at catalyzing joint learning in repeated action-reflection cycles at least three times a year over a period of 3 years. Data from patient databases were also drawn upon as additional resources for reflection.

Findings – The outcome of the initial periods of the team's work in the microsystem dramatically improved the care of these patients, significantly increasing quality of life and stabilizing their medical situation. It has also led to decreased resource utilization, not just by the team, but elsewhere in the wider health system.

Originality/value – We draw on and develop the concept of clinical microsystems to argue that such systems have a team at their core, but their work practices and patient outcomes require us to look beyond the team itself and take into account its interactions with patients and actors in the wider health care system. We also draw on the framework of Christensen, Grossman, and Hwang (2009) to propose that each microsystem has three distinct value configurations, namely shops, a chain, and a network. In terms of design, we suggest that the clinical microsystem can be seen as a parallel learning structure to that of the established health care bureaucracy.

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Purpose – To identify the key success factors in a change process and to demonstrate how adherence to the phases of large-scale change contributed to the successful reform of the Irish cancer services and is critical to the sustainability of this large-scale change.

Design – In-depth retrospective analytical case study drawing from face- to-face semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and players.

Findings – The Irish health care reform had been continually thwarted by local politics. The Irish government confronted this trend by bringing in an outside expert to head the cancer services reform project who, with government support, managed both clinician and public resistance and, based on the evidence of international best practice, led the reform. Sustainable change was achieved by attention to how large-scale change works. The leadership of the project is an important element in overcoming the path dependency that is dogged in most health care reforms.

Value – This chapter provides evidence that the four key phases of large system change: understanding the need for change, framing the change, undertaking the change and sustaining the change, coupled with key success factors in relation to timing, financial viability, political will and leadership, public support, well-managed process, and technical infrastructure and capacity are critical to the implementation and sustainability of large-scale change.

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Purpose – This chapter provides a reflective synopsis of the chapters in the volume and highlights the learning from the cases about the development of new orientations, design configurations, and learning mechanisms. It charts directions for further research and possible managerial actions.

Design – The chapters in this second volume of the book series “Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness” capture a rich set of cases in which organizing for sustainable health care was the central focus. Each chapter illuminated the development of a distinct health care system in a unique cultural and national context, and had a special focus on reporting theoretically informed and rigorously explored knowledge to guide purposeful design and learning approaches. Collectively the chapters highlighted the processes, organization and design, system regulation, and continuous learning approaches in complex organizational and multi-organizational health care systems that enable focus on and advancement of economic, social, and ecological outcomes.

Findings – Several critical themes have emerged from the cases, and from the broader literature on health care transformation: the importance of purpose; the need to overcome fragmentation; the need for alternative business models; technology as an investment in sustainable health care; the centrality of knowledge management; the importance of partnership and collaboration; the role of self-organization and leadership; and the criticality of building change capabilities.

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Ulla Andin received her MD in 2007 at the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University, in the Department of Geriatric Psychiatry. The title of her dissertation was Vascular Dementia, Classification and Clinical Correlates. She is a specialist in geriatrics and has been working as a senior physician at Skaraborg Hospital Group since 2008. Her focus is on elderly patients with multiple illness. Earlier in her career, she worked as a senior physician at USÖ (Universitetssjukhuset i Örebro), where she focused on patients with dementia. In addition, she has served as a supervisor for young physicians.

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Cover of Organizing for Sustainable Health Care
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Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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