Bringing simplicity to complexity
9 January 2018
Maybe you’ve noticed the same thing that I have when attending national or international research conferences. A speaker starts with a PowerPoint-slide that has a picture or an infographic about the theme of the presentation. The slide might show how everything is connected – the big picture – or it might show which components affect the matter in hand. At that moment, many of the listeners take out their smartphones, lean towards the screen and take a photograph of that slide.
The example shows us that an audience wants to hear it from someone who understands the big picture and can represent it in an understandable way – they want to hear it from someone who is an expert. A good speaker might just rely on this one slide and talk the audience through the theme. What can we learn from this?
“Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated” stated Donald Trump, the President of the United States in February 2017. Well, health management professionals did. In order for a reform to succeed, someone has to give out a clear picture about where we are coming from, where we are going, and most importantly – why is the change so important. Sounds like a job for a politician, but is it?
When introducing a health reform, the questions of the citizens and residents are usually not technical, although we professionals often try to provide them answers wrapped around professional jargon. Most residents do not care about financial incentives of the health care providers or cost-effectiveness of the hip surgeries. Politicians on the other hand might be interested in questions like how much does it cost and how long does it take to be implemented? We as health management and health policy professionals are usually caught in the cross-fire trying to fill in the blanks with the help of research. When reality is attached to the vision of how things are going to play out, there are difficult and often technical questions to be answered.
In many cases, we health management professionals are keeping the dialogue open between politics, policy and practice. In these situations, we want the audience to again take out their smartphones, not to scroll down Twitter feeds in boredom, but to take a photograph of the big picture we are showing them. Politicians, as well as citizens, want to have an expert at the table with knowledge of how all the pieces of the health care puzzle are linked together. Without understanding the big picture, chances of failure are high whether we are talking about health system reform or redesigning hospital admission procedures.
The challenge comes from the paradox where research focuses on areas of health-related research that can be quite restricted to particular topics, not the whole system. At the same time, connecting the dots is what is quite often asked for. When someone does that in a research conference, the audience is rushing to the front row.
Sir Richard Branson, the British business magnate, has said that complexity is our enemy. We all know that health care can be a highly complex system where turning one knob can have severe effects if not planned properly. We can and we have to bring simplicity into complexity for the decision makers and for residents so we don’t end up with failed reforms. We can start by improving how we communicate our research findings to each other. So, see you at the EHMA Annual Conference in Budapest!
Kimmo Parhiala – EHMA YAC, January 2018
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What our Members say
I have been active in EHMA since the first years of the '90s and I have seen its evolution from a small association of members interested in sharing knowledge on health management practices to the current status of reference and advisory key player for EU, health systems and organisations, stakeholders associations, industry and universities. EHMA is now a unique knowledge hub, policy advisor, community of practice and network of best in class organisations involved in health policy and management. A place where health managers can build their competences, policy-makers and stakeholder associations envision how to implement and sustain change through health management, industry leaders understand how to engage more effectively with health organisations and systems. The right place to nurture and grow health management capabilities and capacity for every stakeholder of health systems.
Prof. Federico Lega, University of Milan, Italy
Health management has a crucial function in shaping public health and health system challenges. The Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria had success in collaborating with EHMA on EU-funded projects that has resourced us to create new health management competencies for the future workforce. In addition to all classical definitions, health management is a science dealing with individuals, groups, and society at large. It is an art contributing to the beauty of our lives and an interactive communication process at all levels of institutions and human energy. I have also had the pleasure to chair the South Eastern European Special Interest Group which gives members a space to discuss and tools to address how health systems are managed in our regions.
Prof. Todorka Kostadinova, Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria
I enjoy the high level of interaction and engagement in EHMA’s activities, in particular during the annual conference where the panel discussions are rich and well prepared. As a hospital manager and professor of health management, EHMA motivates and inspires me to be creative. You go back home feeling energised from seeing old friends and making new connections, as well as being convinced of serving as EHMA’s ambassador. It’s a strong feeling of interdisciplinary engagement, but it also feels like being part of family-like community.
Prof. Sandra C. Buttigieg, University of Malta, Malta
EHMA is a pre-eminent organisation for everyone working in planning, managing and delivering health services across Europe. As a long standing member of EHMA I have always been impressed by the vibrant community of managers, researchers and academics it has created and by the many opportunities for sharing knowledge and funding opportunities it has brought to its members. Its international scope is impressive and its impact is often felt in management and research across European and national health systems.
Prof. Axel Kaehne, Edge Hill University, UK
Health workforce has become more essential in operating, managing and maintaining health systems lately, particularly in crisis and emergency situations. European healthcare professions and the workforce need to be high on the agenda of managers and decision makers. The Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University in Hungary is a longstanding EHMA member, because it connects us with collaborators and experts, with whom we can have complex debates, from whom we can learn and at the end find solutions in various challenging fields of healthcare management.
Dr Eszter Kovács, Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University, Hungary
As a hospital administrator and health management professor, I see on a daily basis that the healthcare challenges require talented and skilled managers to transform it. the EHMA membership has been beneficial to bring healthcare management research and education to the demanding healthcare services world, promoting healthcare management competencies and knowledge creation.
Dr Alexandre Lourenco, APAH - Association of Portuguese Hospital Managers, Portugal
Many healthcare systems in Europe and beyond are facing similar challenges which require innovative and creative solutions. EHMA’s annual conference, webinars, Programme Directors’ group and other activities and resources provide incredible opportunities for networking, connecting and sharing experiences. A distinct feature of EHMA is the diversity of members with representation from many countries, sectors and different communities of practice – academic, policy-makers, practitioners, managers, leaders and students. The annual conference is a highlight in the calendar year, offering a friendly, fun and learningful environment for emerging and established members to engage, collaborate and meet up with old and new friends. I am proud to be a member of the EHMA Board.
Prof. Ann Mahon, University of Manchester, UK
Society evolution, pandemics and ageing modify health needs. So, health policies and services are to change dramatically. EHMA, through webinars, workshops and annual conference provides an excellent insight to a professional changing world, favouring closeness to management innovation and the protagonists of these changes. As a primary care services’ manager, participating in EHMA activities is really worth it and allows to involve oneself in the innovation processes.
Dr Antoni Peris Grao, Consorci Castelldefels Agents de Salut (CASAP), Spain