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COVID 19 Response: Healthcare & Project Management

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COVID 19 Response: Healthcare & Project Management

As we near the end of another year battling the global pandemic, many organisations within the healthcare industry would be continuing to prepare for a post-crisis reform or a “living with COVID” plan. With case numbers continuing to rise, new treatments being developed and ongoing restrictions in place, there is more need than ever for healthcare organisations to be ready to implement effective and fast responses.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THESE CHALLENGES? HOW CAN PROJECT MANAGEMENT TEAMS HELP TO OVERCOME THESEE CHALLENGES?

Firstly, at the centre of the crisis stands frontline workers, who are at the most risk of transmission to COVID and workplace injury, burnouts and more. As a result of dealing directly with patients, infected or not, there may be a high level of healthcare workers unavailable to work at a time due being a risk to community transmission. This leads to a shortage of staff and overworking of staff, which is extremely detrimental when there is an overflow of patients. The consequences of such pressure can lead to physical and emotional stress and fatigue, affecting the delivery of care and the overall ability for healthcare facilities to effectively treat patients.

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Having a solid project management team to implement crisis prevention plans and crisis management projects is essential in protecting essential healthcare workers. This will be something that will stay relevant in the near future, as COVID cases continue to rise all around the world. In order to stay on top of any potential disparity in skills and risk management strategies, project management remains a valuable contributor to the healthcare industry.

BE PREPARED FOR CHANGE

One thing that we have learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic is that disasters affecting the whole world can emerge when we least expect. Hospitals and healthcare centres can avoid the rush and panic of tackling a fast spreading virus by working with project managers to establish plans, assign resources and ensure the readiness of supplies in the case of another extreme emergency.

Karna, a project management and consulting firm, serves the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal and state government healthcare and public health programs. An article published on their website by Adrienne Garbarino, a senior clinical researcher and project manager, highlights the significance of having the right qualified public health professionals working to adapt to an unprecedented working environment. Garbarino outlines the benefits of hiring qualified individuals with diverse and varied skills sets, agile personalities and positive attitudes.

By having health professionals that are willing to be flexible in their way of working, change project directions quickly and maintain a positive attitude can help project managers to lead the team to success. For instance, Garbarino recalls the importance of adapting to new client needs posed by the pandemic and implementing agile and creative solutions. To avoid the delay or overall abandonment of projects that existed pre-COVID, the project management team assisted with effective client communication, reallocating contract funding and making the shift to remote working. This newly revised solution allowed Karna to achieve successful data collection and analysis and was able to achieve the project goals below the planned budget and within the agreed timeline.

PLANNING FOR THE KNOWN UNKNOWNS

“The deficiency in planning for known unknowns – which is a failure of project management – is common in the US healthcare system”. 

The electronic health record (EHR) market will reach $14.2bn in 2021. Credit: metamorworks / Shutterstock.

Inefficient use of the workforce, lack of clarity in the availability of vaccines and the mismatch of supply and demand for patient care are all contributing factors to the inability to deliver treatment that is consistent, high quality and cost effective. Most significantly, there is a focus on the failure to make efficient use of technology that is designed to enhance information sharing and collaboration among healthcare providers. For instance, the difficulty of entering and finding data in the electronic health record (EHR) systems has seen direct correlation to the burnout of health professionals. The underutilisation of technology such as the EHR system will see detrimental effects for healthcare organisations in terms of work performance and monetary loss over gain.

With the global EHR market expected to grow by nearly $24 billion by 2025, it is vital for healthcare organisations to keep up with the digitalisation of the industry. This is where the significance of project managers reintroduces itself, as they can work with healthcare professionals to update and improve such systems. This ultimately leads to a happier workforce, improved patient care and better organisational performance.