Healthcare continues to evolve worldwide under the pressure of lowering costs while maintaining or, even, increasing quality. The relationship between the two is like a “tug of war” between cost and benefit, which every healthcare establishment must face on a daily basis. Moreover, since healthcare is one of the most regulated sectors, it requires adherence to the current laws before a decision is made. This gives rise to another obstacle.
In a project when two types of professionals must work together in making important decisions, how they think and action must be taken into consideration, as their collaboration would determine the life and death of patients. Literally.
Financiers, including accountants and controllers, are known for their practical approaches. Cost-benefit analysis and ROI (Return on Investment) usually dominate their thinking. On the other hand, clinicians are scientists with independent and idealistic thinking, as their role is ensuring that the patients’ welfare is well taken care of. Physicians belong to this latter category, which explains why the “tug of war” between benefit and cost often escalates whenever they must deal with the financial side of their decisions.
Project managers likely work within a typical “functional organization” structure, where they must follow the leadership of department managers, who can be either financiers or clinicians. A delicate balancing act must be performed to ensure that the patients’ rights are protected, regulations are followed, and costs are optimized —if not minimized.
For this, healthcare project management must be framed within these areas.
First, communicate to collaborate
Communication is of utmost importance in a healthcare project, which can be anything from purchasing new medical equipment, redesigning a hospital wing, to implementing a new clinical procedure. Facilitate a clear communication between the clinical and the financial departments, to ensure transparency and to build trust crucial in the success of the project.
Whenever required, a project manager must be ready to “translate” clinical or scientific jargon into layman terms for financiers to understand the gravity of certain situations. His job would be more than a facilitator, but a communicator par excellence, whose words do not only clarify but also bring out the best of the stakeholders involved.
Second, share a common vision (on patient’s welfare)
Physicians’ tenet is doing no harm to patients, which may mean the cost of new equipment or a new wing is much higher than the proposed budget. Moreover, since financiers mostly speak in numbers, it requires a shared vision on the quality of care provided to the patients.
Communicating the level of care quality early in the planning stage of a project would greatly help in the execution phase. This way, both the clinical and the financial professionals have a reference for reminding themselves whenever things go out of hand.
Third, share an agreement on benefits and costs
When it is time to purchase new medical equipment, the costs, the features, and the benefits must be taken into serious consideration. This would require a common agreement on the philosophy of the care provided in that particular medical establishment.
What kind of benefit to the patient would be worth the extra cost? For instance, various technologies are available, which come with various price points. Sometimes, a small improvement in the design of equipment comes with a higher price tag. This would require an in-depth analysis to evaluate the direct and indirect long and short-term effects for the users and the patients.
In conclusion, getting financial and clinical professionals working together for the benefit of the patients while also taking into consideration the costs and regulations requires an on-going balancing act and clear communication. Complex cost-benefit analyses must be done to ensure all stakeholders are properly acknowledged, respected, and considered.