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Leadership in Health Organizations

Like any business, healthcare organisations require strong, understanding, creative and decisive leadership in order to be self-sustaining and successful. However, given the importance this industry has to one's quality of life, there are added concerns and issues that cannot be handled in a clear-cut business manner. Take the purchase of new equipment, for example - an important part of any hospital's operation. The decision to purchase new equipment rests on a) the medical benefit it could deliver and b) its cost. Unfortunately, because of the different areas of expertise those components cover, many hospitals employ a split decision-making model which has to balance physicians, who know what they require to treat patients but have little concern for money, and management, who has to balance the hospital's fiscal affairs but knows little of what the machines are needed for1. Oftentimes, the communication between these two is not well achieved, and equipment orders are not optimal. In a normal business, the cost would be the presiding factor, and in reality is can turn out this way in healthcare too, but many would disagree that it should.

But what are the main responsibilities and challenges facing healthcare leaders today? The first answer is not terribly unlike one you might find in general business studies - it centers around being adaptable and able to delegate to others. Massively important components of a manger's job include managing themselves so as to stay healthy physically and mentally in order to be in a good place to deal with problems, managing relationships with others to facilitate successful teamwork, managing the organisation's community outlook both regionally and sometimes internationally, and of course, managing the actual changes and improvements to be made within the organisation itself. In broad terms, modern challenges to those components come in the form of fast-advancing technology, ethical regulation changes that must be upheld and the evolving philosophy of healthcare prevention over treatment. Some1 would even go so far as to claim that true healthcare would watch over a person,  starting even before birth and going on until they die, to prevent illnesses, etc. before they can even progress to a stage where they would require treatment. Evidently, this seems hard enough to do for one person, let alone all of them!

Being intrinsically tied to human quality of life, healthcare management is an issue that is pertinent in countries everywhere, yet only more recently is real scholastic effort being applied to the challenge of juggling all the aspects of running a healthcare facility simultaneously. On paper, it may not sound so bad - one could even make a list of all the different departments in the hospital, administrative costs, health promotion/prevention and non-medical upkeep like transport, janitorial work and catering and it would not look unmanageable. However, to actually balance all theses concerns, plus profitability in the private sector, or at least self-sustainability in for government-run facilities, is a huge task. Many post-graduate programs with the aim of helping a leader or leadership team achieve exactly that.

 

References:

1. Levin, R & Mintzberg, H. (2011). Transforming the Way Health Care is Managed Around the World. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD3L5CSaYLY. [Last Accessed 13/5/2014].

Photo credit Phronimoi.

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