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What Makes a Good Healthcare Project Manager

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Summary: Having the right project manager for your healthcare organization can make the difference in a seamless implementation or a failed project. From knowing healthcare workflows to understanding the nuances of billing and regulatory requirements, a good healthcare PM has key traits and skills to look for.

Healthcare Projects Deserve Specialized Experience

Healthcare is a unique industry. Providers must function as a business in a strictly regulated environment while also trying to meet the needs of both patients and caregivers. When it comes to implementing projects in the healthcare setting, the right project manager must be able to recognize the context of the project and the impact it will have on all aspects of the organization. Robust knowledge of clinical, administrative, and financial healthcare operations helps ensure that requirements and risks are considered from all angles, as one cannot function without the others. Whether you are implementing a new electronic health record (EHR) system, acquiring additional facilities, or expanding service lines, the right project manager will ensure your project hits the mark.  

Six Things to Look for in a Good Healthcare Project Manager

1. A Background in Healthcare 

As with any industry, a familiarity with the setting allows a project manager to understand the nuanced details of how things operate, the risks to consider, and what stakeholders may find to be most important. A project manager who worked in healthcare as a previous career or as a dedicated PM will connect the various pieces of clinical, administrative, and revenue cycle. They will understand how the project will impact the end users. Someone who has never worked in the medical field may not perceive the same risks to the project as a project manager who has worked in the industry. Imagine you are implementing a new EHR system, and during testing you find it is not calculating the dose of an intervention correctly. A healthcare PM will quickly recognize the implications that a person without experience in the medical field may miss.  

2. Stays On Top of Healthcare Requirements and Regulations 

We all know regulations around healthcare are strict and ever changing. Each year, there are new rules around reimbursement, billing, and interventions that must be considered from an operational and project perspective. Healthcare project management should be delivered by someone who will stay abreast of governing rules and ensure that these are considered during the project. Even if it is a future-state requirement, a current project should still take it into consideration proactively. A project manager unfamiliar with healthcare settings may not be aware just how quickly things change when it comes to requirements of medical processes and is less likely to be proactive in monitoring this due to the lack of awareness. 

3. Bridges the Gap Between Clinical, Administrative, and Revenue Cycle Areas 

Healthcare is not just the medical providers and the interventions they give – it is a complicated web that ties in administrative functions such as the front office and revenue cycle areas like billing, claims management, and coding. Since a good healthcare PM has experience in this setting, they will be able to anticipate needs related to each of these key areas within your healthcare organization. Having a healthcare consulting project manager who already understands how these areas tie together reduces the learning curve, minimizes missed risks, and ensures more robust requirements gathering is performed as they will include stakeholders from every department. 

4. Considers the Input and Value of Ancillary Staff  

When your organization is carrying out a project, it is key to include the needs and input of all staff. Providers such as doctors, Advanced Practice Providers, and nurses are often prioritized as they make up a substantial portion of the organization, but ancillary staff need to be considered too. Respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, Certified Nursing Assistants, and more – these staff provide critical services, and a healthcare project manager for hire will be more likely to obtain their input, consider their needs, and mitigate risks related to their operations. It is common for these ancillary areas to be forgotten during requirements gathering as well as throughout the project, leading to less robust projects that exclude their needs or to outcomes that are fraught with issues when these services were not considered. Imagine an EHR implementation during go-live that did not consider a speech therapist needing to perform and document a modified barium swallow or a respiratory therapist needing to acknowledge orders placed in the system. The best healthcare PMs help ensure these less represented roles have a place in the project. 

5. Recognizes How a Project Can Impact Patient Care and Mitigates 

Patient care and safety should be the ultimate priority regardless of the purpose of the project. No matter what is being implemented, it should never create undue risk on patients and should minimize interruptions to their experience. A healthcare-focused PM can achieve this due to experience in how to best minimize interruptions. Whether it is timing the cutover from one system to another during off-hours in outpatient or overnight in inpatient, creating backup plans to ensure no required data is ever out of reach for staff, or creating a communication plan to notify patients in advance of a downtime, they will be able to devise the best method for your situation. Understanding the cadence of flow of healthcare allows these PMs to deftly guide your organization to successfully implement the project without affecting patient care. 

6. Swiftly Pivots to Keep Projects on Time  

Healthcare runs on tight margins, and projects are jammed into short timelines with minimal room for delay. Keeping a project on course, especially if it is related to required regulatory changes or time-sensitive situations, is exceptionally important when it comes to healthcare. Members of the project team are often pulled away from their usual duties within the organization, meaning the longer the project goes on, the more operations are affected. Having a skilled and experienced PM with a background in healthcare projects helps keep a project on its timeline due to better risk identification and mitigation, less of a learning curve when understanding the project goals and requirements, and an ability to quickly change course to find alternative paths when barriers are encountered. When you are in a time crunch, someone with specific experience in your field can be the difference in staying on track or having a costly delay.  

Healthcare PMs Bridge the Gap and Save You Headaches  

Bringing on a healthcare PM for your organization’s project may mean the difference in a successful outcome or a disaster. What makes a good project manager in healthcare is the ability to employ traditional PM skills while keenly understanding the context, needs, and regulations impacting medical operations. Finding someone with experience in the world of hospitals, clinics, and health tech provides you with objective insight, expert guidance, and someone whose main purpose is ensuring the project achieves its targets. Tuck Consulting Group has a deep bench of project managers with years of experience in every avenue of the healthcare industry. Give your vision the upper hand with a Tuck consultant – tell us about your goals so that we can match you with the right PM to plan and execute your next healthcare project. Get on the path to success with the Tuck Team by scheduling a call here.

Katy Gaston, DPT, CAPM

Katy Gaston, DPT, CAPM

Healthcare Project Management Consultant

After seven years in clinical practice, Katy pivoted into project management to embrace her passions and natural talents in communication, organization, and execution. She has led several electronic health record (EHR) implementation projects and loves balancing clinical knowledge with the ability to get things done right for the success of her clients. Katy’s specialties include process improvement, operational efficiency, and communication.  

Katy has her Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and has a Bachelors in Exercise Science and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Residing in Minnesota, she is a cat mom, cancer survivor, and three-time marathoner.

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