Implementing a hospital theatre scheduling software solution is a complex and multifaceted endeavour. Healthcare organisations face numerous challenges in the successful execution of such major projects, including the need to balance patient care with operational efficiency, navigate an ever-evolving technological landscape, and ensure seamless integration with existing systems and processes.
Procuring Hospital Theatre Scheduling Software
This article outlines a comprehensive approach to addressing these challenges of procuring a hospital theatre scheduling software solution and achieving a successful implementation. It focuses on the key areas of requirements gathering, early market engagement, procurement, implementation, and entry into business as usual (BAU).
Typical challenges that arise in these projects include accurately defining requirements that address the unique needs of the hospital and its staff, identifying suitable solutions and suppliers in a crowded marketplace, and managing the inherent risks associated with procurement and implementation.
Additionally, healthcare organisations must contend with the complexities of change management and the need to minimise disruption to patient care and hospital operations throughout the process.
Six steps to successfully procuring a hospital theatre scheduling software solution
To help navigate these challenges to assure a fit for purpose solution is procured, implemented and promotes better effectiveness once entered into BAU, is the following six-step approach:
Step 1: Fit for Purpose Requirements Gathering
To begin the process of implementing a hospital theatre scheduling software solution, gather the necessary functional and non-functional requirements by engaging stakeholders such as hospital administrators, surgeons, anaesthetists, nursing staff, and IT personnel. Understand the hospital’s specific needs, including scheduling preferences, resource management, reporting, integration with other systems, and performance expectations. Document these requirements, establishing a clear vision of the desired solution and forming the basis for future steps in the procurement process.
- Risks mitigated: By accurately gathering requirements, healthcare organisations can avoid potential misunderstandings, disputes, and costly rework associated with poorly defined or misunderstood requirements. Note that some 85% of disputes between solution suppliers and the healthcare organisations arise because of misunderstandings over the business case, requirements, functionality, data migration and integrations with legacy solutions.
- Tangible benefits: A well-defined set of requirements provides a clear vision for the desired solution to the suppliers and serve as a solid foundation for subsequent steps, ensuring that the final solution meets the organisation’s specific needs and expectations, ultimately improving scheduling efficiency and resource management.
Step 2: Early Market Engagement and Due Diligence
Conduct an early market engagement exercise to explore available solutions and providers in the marketplace. This may involve issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to gather preliminary details from potential suppliers and engaging in informal discussions with industry experts. Identify key features, trends, and potential barriers to entry, such as cost or compatibility with existing systems. In parallel, structure a due diligence process for potential suppliers to explore the requirements of your organisation. This process usually involves allowing the suppliers to ask detailed questions over your expectations at an early stage.
- Risks mitigated: Engaging with the market early reduces the risk of selecting a solution that is incompatible with legacy systems, not fit for purpose or cannot be successfully implemented within the client’s budget, resourcing and time scale constraints. Due diligence by the supplier also helps to avoid potential issues with supplier reliability, financial stability, or a lack of expertise.
- Tangible benefits: Early market engagement enables healthcare organisations to better understand the available solutions, align their requirements with market realities, and identify potential barriers to entry, leading to a more informed decision-making process and increased confidence in the selected supplier.
Step 3: Two-Part Procurement and Contracting
Develop a procurement strategy, which includes defining the selection criteria and preparing a comprehensive Request for Proposal (RFP) that details the requirements, evaluation criteria, and contract terms. Distribute the RFP to potential suppliers, allowing sufficient time for them to respond. Evaluate received proposals and shortlist suppliers.
In terms of contract award:
- Contract for the ‘advice’ from the supplier, separately, to the ‘solution’. Part 1 of the award process involves contracting selected suppliers for advice on the solution. Engage suppliers to validate the gathered requirements, assess technical feasibility, detailed project plan (detailing milestones, timelines, and responsibilities), solution configuration, user acceptance testing (designed and approved by the supplier) and provide recommendations for improvements. This stage enables better decision-making by leveraging suppliers’ expertise and minimising risks.
- Contract for the solution. Part 2 of the award process focuses on the final selection of a supplier for the solution and implementation, based on the validation and advice received in Part 1. Negotiate and finalise the contract, including terms such as ensuring the solution is fit for its intended purpose, cost, timelines, deliverables, warranties, and support services.
The risk mitigation and benefits of this two-part award process are wide and many, but predominately include:
- Risks mitigated: A two-part procurement process minimises the risk of selecting a supplier that does not fully understand the organisation’s requirements or lacks the necessary expertise to implement the solution successfully.
- Tangible benefits: By separating advice and solution contracting, organisations can leverage suppliers’ expertise to validate requirements, assess technical feasibility, and obtain recommendations for improvements. This leads to a more effective decision-making process and a a better-aligned solution.
Step 4: Implementation
Begin implementing the chosen solution by forming a cross-functional project team that includes representatives from IT, clinical staff, and administration. Work with the supplier to implement the project plan from Step 3. Install and configure the software, ensuring compatibility with existing systems and processes. Train end-users and support staff on the new system’s features, functions, and procedures. Perform thorough testing in line with the supplier’s advised testing process to validate functionality and performance, addressing any minor misalignments that arise.
Note that it is not the users role to identify ‘defects’ or ‘bugs’. These issues should have already been identified and resolved by the supplier during its internal System Integration Testing, well in advance of any solution being provided to the client user for user acceptance testing.
- Risks mitigated: A structured implementation process reduces the risk of poor system performance, compatibility issues, and insufficient user training.
- Tangible benefits: Effective implementation results in a properly configured system that meets the organisation’s needs, well-trained end-users and support staff, and a high-performing solution that ultimately improves patient care and hospital operations.
Step 5: Business Change Management
Develop a comprehensive change management plan to ensure a smooth transition to the new scheduling software. This plan should include strategies for communication, training, and support, to minimise disruption and ensure that staff members understand the benefits of the new system. Monitor and manage resistance to change, proactively addressing concerns and providing necessary resources. Conduct ongoing evaluations of the system’s performance and user satisfaction, making adjustments as needed to optimise its effectiveness.
- Risks mitigated: A comprehensive change management plan minimises the risk of staff resistance, confusion, and disruption to hospital operations during the transition to the new scheduling software.
- Tangible benefits: Proactive change management ensures that staff understand the benefits of the new system, leading to increased user satisfaction, smoother adoption, and ultimately, improved scheduling efficiency and patient care.
Step 6: Entry into Business as Usual (BAU)
Transition the implemented solution into BAU by establishing standardised processes and procedures, as well as support structures such as helpdesks and training resources. Continuously monitor the system’s performance, conducting regular maintenance and updates as required. Evaluate the project’s success against the original business case, identifying lessons learned and areas for improvement in future initiatives. The new hospital theatre scheduling software solution should now be fully operational and integrated into the organisation’s daily operations.
- Risks mitigated: Establishing standardised processes and support structures reduces the risk of ongoing system performance issues or a lack of necessary resources for maintenance and updates.
- Tangible benefits: A successful transition to BAU ensures that the new scheduling software is fully operational and integrated into daily operations, resulting in more efficient scheduling, better resource management, and improved patient care. Continuous monitoring and evaluation facilitate ongoing improvement and optimisation of the system’s effectiveness.
In conclusion, the successful implementation of a hospital theatre scheduling software solution requires a carefully planned and executed approach, addressing the many challenges and complexities that can arise during the process. By following the six-step approach outlined in this article, healthcare organisations can effectively gather requirements, engage the market, and navigate the procurement and implementation process. Furthermore, by focusing on change management and ensuring a smooth transition into BAU, hospitals can maximise the benefits of their new system while minimising disruption to patient care and staff operations.
As healthcare organisations continue to adopt and leverage new technologies to improve patient care, it is essential to have a clear and structured approach to implementing these solutions. This six-step framework offers a solid foundation for managing the many challenges that can arise throughout the implementation process and ultimately achieving a successful outcome.