Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the regulator's attempt at redesigning the patient care process (PCP) – a core business process in public hospitals – by introducing dichotomous process performance indicators as an innovative management tool intended to align the State health care policy with the everyday management of operations at a hospital ward. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents an ethnographic case study of redesigning the PCP according to the strategy originating outside the organization. The study employs competing theories that represent alternative epistemological and ontological views of the world in order to produce a tentative explanation of why the intended redesign of the PCP has not fully eventuated. Observational data and opportunistic interviewing are used to answer the research question of whether and how the information and operational flows on the ward were affected by introduction of process performance indicators. A business process redesign framework was employed for data analysis since it better reflects the objectives of the State‐wide initiative and offers a convenient tool in dealing with data complexity. Findings – Introduction of the process performance indicators did not result in redesigning of the PCP as intended by health care authorities. Out of four process performance indicators, only one was consistently implemented, which merely produced a duplication of the previously collected information, therefore adding no value to the PCP. On a theoretical level, the results indicate that the emergent theory rather than the rational agent theory demonstrated a greater fidelity to the empirical observations. Originality/value – The paper assessed the feasibility of using innovative dichotomous process performance indicators as a tool for redesigning the business process at the ward level, in order to achieve macro‐level policy objectives. The failure to successfully implement a top‐down universal approach to redesigning business processes in health care is likely to reflect a lack of appreciation of emergent rationality that characterizes essential aspects of the PCP.
Business Process Management Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 8, 2011
Keywords: Australia; Hospital management; Health care; Service delivery systems; Process redesign; Process performance indicators; Ethnographic case study