Why is Working on A Healthcare Project so Different? (Part 2)

Paul Pankiewicz — 6 June, 2020

If you didn’t read part one of this blog, you can read it here. It talks about some of the unique challenges faced on projects in a healthcare setting. This next blog looks at some of the strategies I have seen employed to overcome these challenges and deliver great outcomes for health projects.

6 Tips For Overcoming Health Project Challenges.

Subject Matter Experts

As a healthcare illiterate project manager (at that point of time), I made sure that I took a subject matter expert with me to every meeting with clinicians. When I look back at my weekly status meeting with the 12 nursing directors, it was invaluable to have the ex-nurse turned IT expert with me to interpret the terminology and at times translate the conversation both ways. (BTW, we did resolve the issues from the previous project, so this awkward situation was turned around by sheer persistence and delivering on improved clinical workflows and patient outcomes mentioned in part 1).

Thorough Stakeholder Mapping

Understand the hierarchy in the hospital before setting up meetings. You may need to approve using someone’s time with their manager/director before contacting them, unless you want the wrath of the Director of Nursing upon you!

It’s All About Them

You have to work around the clinician’s availability. The clinicians have an important day job and helping a project is often seen to be a major distraction. Some tips here:

  • Accept less than 100% commitment – plan for it and work around it;
  • Incentivise health staff to attend meetings – chocolate, pizza, payments, gift cards, and offering training may persuade attendance;
  • Work to their schedule, early/late meetings, provide on floor updates via the clinicians existing communication procedures.

Collaborate & Consult

Consultation, consultation, consultation. When presenting information and/or new ideas you will be challenged on who you have consulted. Record your sources. Also, be aware of the quiet ones in meetings. There can be a clear pecking order which gets in the way of a balanced view due to input being dominated by one group over another and it might not necessarily follow the expected hierarchy. If you are gathering information, make sure you gain the information from all impacted groups.

The Right Champions

Identify Clinical Champions – if you can get to the people who know about the area that will be impacted by your project then you are certainly better placed to provide the best project outcome possible.

Advanced Techniques

There are some more advanced techniques that I have heard about to overcome some of the challenges in healthcare, especially to improve access to and working more closely with the clinicians. Given more time in the healthcare industry, perhaps I might be able to implement these?

  1. Adapt to understand Healthcare;
  2. Learn Clinical Terminology;
  3. Consider having Clinicians lead projects, mentor them if necessary (to supplement their PM knowledge);
  4. Become the healthcare GURU:
    • Build relationships within the relevant organisation;
    • Know what you don’t know (don’t over step your level of understanding!);
    • On clinical matters defer to the experts, they will defer to you for PM or IT expertise;
    • Be cognisant of Roles and Hierarchies;
    • Be a strong facilitator, be prepared, organised, be in control of the meetings

This concludes the two-part blog ‘Why is working on a Healthcare project so different?’, authored by Paul Pankiewicz, a Project Management Consultant at Chamonix.

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