Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bureaucracy cannot practise medicine - trying to managing healthcare and doctors

Everyone is worried about the escalating costs of providing medical care. Many solutions to this problem have been based on the premise that the reason medical care is a mess today is because health care delivery is not being properly "managed". The siren song is that if we can "manage" healthcare delivery properly, we will be able to provide better medical care to more patients at a lower cost !

Management seems to have become the panacea to all ills - and it's a very tempting idea ! After all, isn't it obvious that managing something can just help to make it more efficient and effective ?

Sadly, in real life, this is not true. In order to manage healthcare, we need managers who have special training and expertise in management; and then inject them into hospitals to manage doctors . All this ends up creating is an additional layer of people between doctors and patients - a layer which has no medical expertise - and which just adds to costs and paperwork !

Interestingly, this is as true in education as it is in medicine. A great book by Philip Howard called Life Without Lawyers has a thought-provoking chapter titled - Bureaucracy Cannot Teach ( from which I've lifted the title of my post).

He writes - " All these reforms have been based on an unspoken assumption: that better organisation is the key to fixing whatever ails schools. The theory is that by imposing more organisational requirements - better teacher credentials, more legal rights, detailed curricula, the pressure of tests - schools will get better. That's the theory. The effect, however, is to remove the freedom needed to succeed at any aspect of teachers' responsibilities - how they teach, how they relate to students, and how they coordinate their goals with administrators."

Applied to healthcare, this would read, He writes - " All these reforms have been based on an unspoken assumption: that better organisation is the key to fixing whatever ails hospitals. The theory is that by imposing more organisational requirements - better doctor credentials, more guidelines, more legal rights for patients, detailed medical curricula, testing for performance - hospitals will get better. That's the theory. The effect, however, is to remove the freedom needed to succeed at any aspect of doctors' responsibilities - how they treat , how they relate to patients , and how they coordinate their goals with administrators."

Bureaucracy often ends up smothering teachers - and doctors as well ! When we try to manage something, we often end up mismanaging it !

Most management principles are simple applied common sense - and rather than try to have more managers, it would make much more sense to teach doctors basic managerial skills, so they can do a better job managing their patients - and themselves !
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3 comments:

  1. I agree. Instead of hiring managers who aren't medical specialists, it's better for doctors who are well-rounded in their profession to manage the hospital staff.

    ReplyDelete
  2. very appreciative blog ........

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope that the vile bureaucratic red tape does not swing its way into medical and health care. That will be the end of it all.

    ReplyDelete

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