A comprehensive guide to implementing systems approach in healthcare environment


The US healthcare system works well in some areas, but overall performance in terms of security, excellence, cost and clinical outcomes still needs to be improved. The use of organized, facts-based systems-engineering methodologies, which have been employed successfully by many other sectors, is crucial for closing these efficiency disparities.

If these strategies are employed in healthcare and medicine, quality care, cost, patient safety and patient experience improve significantly. However, the healthcare system continues to underutilize these methods, and they have significant room for growth.

Like it or not, healthcare is a complex adaptive system of interconnected people, things, procedures and organizations. It is often difficult to improve the overall performance of such a structure since issues can occur with either weakness in the individual system components or in how they interact with one another.

After all, attempts to enhance care can involve disruptions that have various positive and negative effects. Healthcare leaders understand that complex issues require a systems view to prevent more complex administrative challenges and ensure successful delivery. This article dives deeply into the systems approach, its advantages and how you can implement it in healthcare settings.

What is a systems approach?

The systems approach is not a new idea. It is based on breaking a complicated process into smaller, more understandable chunks to reduce complexity. Ludwig von Bertalanffy first put forth the systems approach under the title “General System Theory.”

A system comprises related and dependent components that work together to create a cohesive whole. A system approach is merely a collection of elements or features combined to produce a complex totality. Its network of subsystems is one of its most significant characteristics.

For instance, the world can be viewed as a system comprised of different economic systems. Each financial system consists of many sectors, each of which is composed of businesses. Subsequently, a company can be considered a system made up of subsystems such as production, marketing, finance, bookkeeping, etc.

Without discarding the elements, the approach concentrates on the system. It attempts to comprehend every piece’s function within the structure and the entire system operation. The following are key ideas in the systems approach:

  • Holism: A modification in any portion or element of a system has an immediate or indirect impact on the entire system.
  • Specialization: To better comprehend the specialized part played by each item, a whole system can be broken down into smaller and more readily understood components.
  • Non-summational: Each subsystem and each system play a crucial role in the entire process. To obtain a comprehensive viewpoint, you must comprehend how each part behaves.
  • Grouping: By multiplying elements with deeper concentration, the process of specialization can produce complexity. It becomes crucial to organize related disciplines or sub-disciplines to prevent this.
  • Coordination: Coordination is necessary for both the grouped components and their subcomponents. Without coordination, the parts won’t be able to operate together, resulting in pandemonium. In the analysis of processes, control and coordination are crucial concepts because, without them, you cannot have a cohesive, created theory.
  • Emergent properties: From a systems perspective, this is a crucial idea. It indicates that a collection of affiliated entities possesses collectively unique qualities. This is how a system is seen in its entirety. For instance, complex life displays traits that do not exist in individual component cells.

The systems approach helps analyze the operations of complex industries such as healthcare. Healthcare organizations can highlight the connections between tasks like organizing, leading and managing through this approach. Because it is so near to reality, this technique has an advantage over the others.

Implementing systems approach in healthcare

A systems approach to healthcare employs scientific understanding to comprehend the factors that affect clinical outcomes. Through this approach, healthcare leaders can enhance practice by considering the various components associated with patient care and the variables affecting health.

It can also assist with the design and integration of people, processes, policies and organizations to promote better health at a reduced cost by recognizing how these aspects act independently and how they rely on each other.

With many tools provided for the demands at differing stages and across layers, these strategies can be helpful for all levels of the health system, such as patient-clinician and institution-based contact.

These techniques include queuing model and operations management to ensure that resources are available when patients need them. Moreover, production system techniques and other control systems assist institutions in constantly improving their services and identifying issues by comprehending how humans interact with technologies and processes.

Recognizing the factors that influence a desired procedure empowers healthcare organizations to integrate multiple risk, design and individual perspectives in a manner that applies to the healthcare system.

Furthermore, it will take specific technological supports such as other sophisticated data systems and interoperable devices; a receptive culture and leadership; patient, family, doctor and general civic outreach; as well as novel market incentives to disseminate these systemic concepts more widely.

Benefits of systems approach in healthcare

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Now you might wonder how an institution can benefit from such a strategy. This section tackles the advantages of implementing a systems approach in healthcare.

It lets healthcare organizations view issues at a holistic level

There are several perspectives and approaches to viewing problems. It’s not a given that something will continue to function just because it did in the past. When you refuse to consider a problem or solution in another approach because you’re locked on one perspective, you disregard other possible and more cost-effective options.

The prevalence of patient harm, which continues to be an issue, is one area of particular worry. Recent data shows nearly one in four patients experience damage during their hospital stays. Various adverse effects may occur whenever a patient receives medical attention, particularly in complex or high-risk situations and throughout a clinical setting. Patients are frequently at risk for damage beyond conventional measures, such as losing dignity and respect.

By implementing a systems approach, healthcare institutions can understand issues before they even occur by influencing internal and external factors. On the off-chance that it happens, healthcare professionals can treat the individual by considering physical, mental, emotional and social wellness.

This may be associated with a diagnosis-specific issue. In this case, a holistic approach might consider all potential symptoms, or it may be related to holistic therapy, which could be highly innovative and provide the patient control over their care. Either way, applying a systems approach empowers healthcare experts to understand all parts of the issue before taking a step back to understand it as a whole.

It provides a long-term view of issues

Since healthcare organizations can assess problems holistically, they can immediately gain a long-term view of issues. For example, there has been an urgent call for change to enhance healthcare outcomes at a lower cost.

While there are pockets of success in the US healthcare system, overall performance needs to be improved due to disparate patient care, rising costs and stagnant productivity, and irresponsible utilization of empirical proof. Even though total healthcare spending has increased, research indicates that up to 30% of those costs may be unwarranted.

By viewing these issues holistically, healthcare organizations can gain an enterprise-wide perspective, allowing them to have a long-term view of issues. This is especially important since, with a long-term view, leaders may easily change value creation and prospects.

Healthcare leaders can still think about the future even though it appears uncertain. The four main factors that affect shareholder value can be your focus as a leader. These are growth, profitability, capital needs and cash flow. Healthcare institutions will withstand the current storm and come out even more potent if they concentrate on value creation for the long term.

It creates a standard framework

Providing a framework is vital for standardizing patient care and delivery. Like it or not, the entire healthcare system runs on multiple structures. When one structure does not deliver what it’s supposed to do, the whole system falls through.

The advantage of the systems approach is it empowers healthcare organizations to create methodical frameworks that promote consistency, centralize the discovery of innovative processes and assume a critical role in organizing essential patient information.

Moreover, a standard framework provides healthcare institutions with a way to measure, manage and monitor their overall performance. In doing so, they can make the necessary adjustments to avoid potential risks of care fragmentation and ensure better patient outcomes.

If that’s not good enough, frameworks can help to make ideas more transparent and enhance knowledge of molecular principles in strengthening health systems research. This is especially crucial since, without a defined framework, healthcare organizations cannot evaluate interactions within a particular system.

How to implement a systems approach in healthcare learning and working environments

Now that your interest has been gauged, you might ask how to implement a systems approach in healthcare. Like it or lump it, there is no one-size-fits-all way to the process since the implementation will always vary in the application environment. This section will discuss how you can implement a systems approach in healthcare learning and working environments.

Implementing a systems approach on a base level, specifically during the healthcare education phase, is ideal. This is because it concentrates first on the student and, subsequently, the course content, learning experiences and practical media and instructional schemes. In doing so, students can incorporate the ability of constant improvement and self-correction within themselves.

So, how do you get started? While there is no exact formula, an excellent way to start is to set off on a career as a healthcare administrator or a faculty member.

This way, you will have the specialized knowledge and credentials to implement a systems approach in a healthcare environment. To get started, you can pursue an Ed.D. in education & leadership in healthcare at Rockhurst University, which provides you with an in-depth background of multiple system approaches and policies.

Accredited by the Higher Learning Council, the courses in this program will increase your understanding of the major issues influencing the K-12 landscape and historical and contemporary educational systems. Moreover, it also draws upon learning theory and essential tools in conducting quantitative and qualitative processes. Some of the courses that allow for implementing a systems approach include the following:

  • Policy, ethics and legal frameworks in education
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This course examines the legislative environment, legal system and ethical issues surrounding education in the US. It aims to increase the knowledge of education law and policymaking among educators at the local school board, state and federal levels.

  • Technology leadership

This course will assist students in understanding the purpose of innovations in handling their school environments, learning and teaching. It includes instructional design, program fusion with requirements, cutting-edge technology programs and the logistics of technology implementation, professional development and evaluation. Some topics covered include the causes of aversion to technological change, management, decision making and transition tools; developing and maintaining a culture of learning and change; and utilizing technology to enhance daily operations.

  • Managerial communications

This course examines the numerous methods, tools, procedures and communication styles leaders use to communicate effectively within businesses. In addition to learning how to use digital communication efficiently, students also compose and present orally. Assignments include real-world or virtual business scenarios that call for interaction in several formats and modes. 

  • Informatics for advanced practice

This course outlines the function of information systems in medical institutions. The coursework emphasizes the impact of health information technology (HIT) solutions and the integration of evidence-based practice in clinical decision support.

It will also investigate telehealth uses, machine learning systems and technological, operational and price concerns connected to healthcare information systems. Students will learn and practice research skills for evaluating health data systems within the context of healthcare giving through a mixture of online studies and conversations, group assignments and individual tasks.

A systems approach in the workplace

In cases wherein you need to apply a systems approach in the workplace, here are some steps you can take to ensure successful implementation.

  • Observe existing approach

Before you make some changes, the first step is to observe your existing approach and identify subsystems. Think about the various subsystem components, such as the individuals, innovation and physical setting. Consider the results of both the system and each of these components. Evaluate past data to determine whether your system design effectively forecasts the outcomes of previous activity.

  • Determine the issues you would like to solve

The ideal strategy for complex, ongoing issues is a systems approach. These problems are usually structural, and finding and implementing remedies can take some time. Start with more straightforward, more manageable issues and gradually add complexity. Drawing a diagram of how you want the system to operate may be helpful before examining where the desired outcome is not achieved.

  • Understand the issues

Remember that the issue and its resolution are usually not the results of a single entity or system component. Apply a systems approach to the scenario to look at it differently. Instead of finding a quick fix, think about setting a goal to understand the problem better. You should create straightforward representations of the issue using only the essential components and details. Online templates might be accessible to assist with this phase.

  • Establish interventions

Examples of potential actions are creating or removing connections between pieces already present, reducing the time between tasks, defining a goal or speeding or decelerating a process. It can be helpful to concentrate on interactions rather than changing specific components, such as recruiting new employees or upgrading computer software, when looking for areas to make changes.

  • Choose desired solutions

When deciding which actions you wish to attempt, seek long-term and sustainable ones. A combination of several adjustments to the system’s framework would work best. Come up with solutions that have both short- and long-term effects to detect and address unforeseen outcomes quickly.

  • Ensure seamless changes

It can be helpful to mention that your analysis of the system constantly changes while outlining your suggested remedies. Others may be more engaged if you ask for their opinions. Workers directly impacted by the modifications should be significantly involved since they are more likely to accept changes positively if they comprehend the reasons behind them. Choose other people to supervise your planned changes and demonstrate that you are open to the alterations.

  • Collect feedback

Try developing simple avenues for employees to provide input on your solutions and suggestions for enhancements. You may also host meetings to encourage others to share their experiences with the answers. By accepting feedback while making adjustments, you can determine whether they are ultimately positively affecting you.


Implementing a systems approach is a complex process that involves a lot of trial and error. You can simplify the process by signing up and enrolling in a healthcare education program today.



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