Why is Working on a Healthcare Project so Different? (Part 1)

Paul Pankiewicz — 4 June, 2020

In projects we have all heard about the triple constraints of time, cost and scope. While these are important considerations on all projects, they are not the main drivers for healthcare projects. From a clinical perspective the following factors appear to be key attributes of the project or proposed change. 

Will the project or change provide:

  1. Efficient Clinical Workflows?
  2. Improvements to Patient Safety?
  3. Improved Patient Outcomes?

In healthcare, it is not enough for a project to meet the triple constraint of time, cost and scope. The project has to meet its clinical objectives as well. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times the phrase “clinical risk” has been used in business analysis and design meetings to explain why the proposed solution is unacceptable.

In the design of a process (clinical workflow), the terminology needs to be clear, intuitive for the clinical situation, responsive, meet clinical safety aspects and as few clicks as possible.

What Other Differences Might You Find In a Healthcare Project?

Some of the difficult situations I have come across during my healthcare project work:

  • Sitting round a table with 12 nursing directors on a weekly basis discussing status for a project that was to resolve a previous ICT project that had not provided the outcomes above – to say they were sceptical that we could improve the situation would be an understatement;
  • Not understanding the terminology – and I still don’t understand most of it even after all this time working in Healthcare (it’s a secret society!);
  • Not knowing the hierarchy in the hospitals and the health networks – it can be complicated (every hospital management structure seems to be unique);
  • Having to utilise clinicians’ time on a fixed period basis;
  • Working on third hand information to elicit requirements;
  • Data privacy issues – testing the project deliverables using fake patient data;
  • Testing solutions using real world examples of data; and
  • Raising the project up the priority scale of the time-poor clinicians.

When compared to critical “life and death” situations, project work can appear to be quite unimportant unless it is to be used in life or death situations of course. Thus while the project might be really important to the project team and the project sponsors, gaining input from clinicians requires careful planning and plenty of patience (pardon the pun!).

Tricky isn’t it – keep an eye out for next week’s blog where I talk about some of the tips I have for overcoming these challenges.

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