How project managers can help the healthcare industry prepare for the next crisis

The hardest-hit during the pandemic are professionals in the medical and medical supply sectors. Project managers can play a vital role in helping these essential workers and their employers.

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Image: RyanKing999, Getty Images/iStockPhoto

Virtually every industry was hit hard by COVID-19, but the medical sector suffered the greatest and still continues to feel the strain. Whether it's hospitals, care centers, dentists, or private medical practices, there are opportunities for improvement—and that's where project management professionals (PMPs) can play a pivotal role. 

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Project managers are used to working under pressure, whether it's financial, scheduling, quality control, or other restraints. These individuals can help any business resolve not only crisis situations but also help guide the post-crisis reform. As one of the industries struggling the most with labor, supply, scheduling, financial, and quality control following the onset of COVID-19, this industry needs the assistance of a well-structured and organized project management office (PMO). 

PMOs can be instrumental in helping the medical industry conduct post-crisis evaluations and devise testing preparedness plans for the next crisis. Here are some ways a PMP or PMO can help your healthcare organization.

Identify service and supply-chain holes

Being prepared for another crisis requires understanding which areas or teams fell short during a crisis. Shortages could be in services, supplies, equipment, or logistics. PMOs can be instrumental in helping to identify and manage supply chain and other operational gaps. They collaborate with leaders and front-line staff across your organization to analyze and isolate crisis situations that get to the root cause of issues. They can also devise effective plans to remove roadblocks and ensure that resources are properly allocated to close any voids. 

SEE: 3 tips for logistics companies to help maintain the supply chain during a crisis (TechRepublic) 

Diagnose leadership challenges

There may be situations in which preparedness concerns identify leadership or skills deficiencies. This doesn't mean leaders should be let go, but it also doesn't exclude this when necessary. The first course of action is to identify skills or knowledge disparities and determine the required training to enable leaders to become more effective in their roles during a crisis. Another possibility is to establish organization-wide initiatives that enable leaders to take part in worldwide crisis prevention and management panels or forums that help leaders learn from one another about best-practices and alternative approaches. 

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Pinpoint front-line staffing gaps

Mandates for workers to stay home bypassed essential healthcare workers, and due to the large volume of COVID-19 cases, there are large still staffing holes. Without adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), front-line workers are further at risk of burnout, infection, and injury, creating more absences and additional gaps. PMOs can work with governments, hospitals, and care facilities to initiate crisis-prevention and crisis-management projects to better protect front-line workers in the future. They can address potential skills disparities and risk-management strategies that identify and address the potential staffing issues and strategies to overcome them. 

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Work with medical leaders on preparedness plans

Disasters of all types happen all the time, and it's likely that another pandemic will surface again in our lifetimes. The key for hospitals and care centers that were unprepared this time around is to not make the same mistakes next time. PMOs can work closely with medical institutions and leaders to better prepare for the next pandemic by establishing a preparedness plan, assigning resources, and ensuring supplies and equipment are on standby to handle extreme emergencies. This means looking back at lessons learned and devising strategies and mechanisms to fill in any gaps that came about as the result of COVID-19. It also requires setting up virtual solutions to handle non-essential or non-life-threatening care. 

Worst-case scenarios that cripple the medical system have become a reality during this pandemic, so running extreme case preparedness testing to simulate likely and unlikely scenarios is vital. PMOs will be instrumental in guiding the medical industry toward preparedness when the next crisis hits by identifying service, supply-chain, staff, and leadership holes and working with medical leaders to strengthen and test emergency preparedness plans.

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