Operations management refers to a focus on the practices designed to monitor and manage all of the processes within the production and the distribution of products and services. The largest activities that operations management focuses on are product creation and service development, and the efficiency with which both are distributed. Managing purchases, monitoring inventory and preserving quality are the primary goals. Operations management often includes analyzing a company's internal processes. Ultimately, the way that an organization carries out operations management depends upon the nature of products or services that it offers.

Health care is an extremely diverse industry. It primarily includes institutions and practitioners that offer services for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of injury, illness, disease, and other physical and mental impairments. There are a wide variety of specialties that focus on specific treatments. Health care refers to primary, secondary and tertiary care, as well as to public health. Social and economic conditions largely affect access to health care, as do the policies and management of services. For a health care system to function efficiently, necessary aspects include generous financing, a well-trained and well-paid workforce, credible information on which policies can be structured, and health facilities that are well-maintained and reliably managed.

Operations management is essential for the efficient functionality and provision of health services. Because the health care sector is currently undergoing a considerable amount of reform, the jobs of those who manage health care operations are changing as well. Some of the most prominent examples of operations management in health care include controlling costs and improving the quality of service provided to patients.

Controlling Costs

One of the first areas of focus for operations managers is cost control. The current health care system overuses expensive, technological and emergency-based treatment. High costs from care often remains uncompensated due to patients being uninsured. A prevalence of services in expensive settings creates a burden on taxpayers, health insurance holders and health care institutions themselves. The goal for operations managers is to help strike a balance between necessary high-tech treatment and community centers that offer preventative services. Primary care institutions are also a part of keeping patients from needing expensive emergency services.

Cost control also affects the levels and quality of services that are provided to clients. Inefficiently managed costs cut down on budgets, limiting the technology and equipment that can be purchased and used to provide necessary services. For operations managers, the goal is to streamline costs and to create necessary funding to maintain adequate levels and quality of services offered.

The Bottom Line

Operations management plays a vital role in the health care industry. It is responsible for the oversight of health care facility operations, how efficiently they function, and how capable they are of providing adequate and reliable treatment to the community they serve.

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