14 June at 07:00AM
Strategies Healthcare Project Managers Adopted during the Pandemic
The pandemic has substantially altered how healthcare systems operate. Healthcare professionals have had to rapidly adapt to the “new normal.” The healthcare industry has had to adjust to balancing operational work, tackling the demands of COVID-19-related projects, and managing the remote workforce.
In March, PMI Toronto’s Healthcare Branch hosted a meeting focused on how healthcare professionals successfully executed projects during the pandemic. Four healthcare project managers from Women's College Hospital spoke about how they managed significant projects while dealing with the uncertainty of the last two years. The evening’s discussion focused on:
- Completing projects with limited resources and in short timeframes
- Leveraging project strategies to stay on track and mitigate risk
- Establishing high-performing project teams
Introducing Our Speakers
The speakers actively engaged with the audience throughout the session. Each speaker discussed different projects they had experienced executing during the pandemic. They also reflected upon how they had to reshape project strategies during lockdowns with remote teams and limited in-person services. They even discussed the pros and cons of the pandemic in healthcare project management and the changes they will continue to follow even after the pandemic.
Jennifer Pinto is currently a Management Consultant specializing in project management and business analysis at Accenture in their Strategy & Consulting division. Previously, she worked at Women’s College Hospital where she led major projects.
Alyssa Furfaro-Argier is a Clinical Project Coordinator on the Epic team at Women's College Hospital; Her role during the pandemic has been dedicated to helping with the roll out of Video Visits across the hospital and helping with the transition of in-person workflows to all virtual.
Daryl Manankil is a Project Manager with the Women's Virtual Department who primarily leads projects involving the integration of virtual care tools across Women’s College Hospital.
Dhara Desai is a Clinical Applications Manager at Women’s College Hospital, possessing over 10 years of professional experience in Information Technology and clinical admin settings in the healthcare industry. She is also a professor at George Brown College in the Health Informatics Post Graduate Program.
Brendan Kwolek is the Chief Information Officer at Halton Healthcare, took part as a special guest panelist.
Our speakers have been in the healthcare industry for quite some time and have learned a great deal since implementing new ways of working because of the pandemic.
Keeping the Plan Flexible
As the virus landscape rapidly changed during the pandemic, project managers (PMs) in healthcare had no choice but to step back from their original plans and assess how best to move forward to minimize the impacts on project schedules and cost. The speakers shared how as PMs, they leveraged virtual tools for team coordination, testing, and training during the pandemic. Using these virtual tools allowed them to increase efficiency. For example, the Women's College Hospital's primary electronic medical record software upgrade project started during the pandemic. The pandemic forced them to change their project implementation strategy. Traditionally, they would host town halls to showcase upgrade changes. However, because of the lockdown and people working from home, they had no choice but to leverage virtual meetings and email communications to disseminate the information. Later, they found this method of sharing information more effective and efficient. Since then, this method will continue well past the pandemic.
PMs in healthcare also had to deal with balancing between COVID-19 projects and the operation’s projects work. Many times, efforts at the hospital had to be centralized on COVID work, especially during the first few months. It was also very critical to keep regular operational projects. For example, due to the staff shortage during the implementation of their e-faxing project, Women's College Hospital's project managers only had two analysts to help support the project's rollout. They have 56 clinics and pre-pandemic they would go live with an update to all clinics within one week or even split the rollout into two groups—one would go live the first week and the second half the following week. But with only two analysts it was impossible to have all 56 clinical live in the same timeframe, so they adjusted to new timelines. The clinics were grouped into smaller numbers and went live every week over a two-month period.
Communication is the Key
Maintaining constant communication with team members also significantly supported the project's proper implementation during the pandemic. The speakers emphasized using various methods to communicate project status and other important information. They implemented daily huddles—new because of the pandemic. These huddles were a way for everyone to provide an update on what they were currently working on so everyone was kept updated on the project progress. With most meetings being virtual, it allowed cross-functional (clinical and non-clinical) teams to participate on the same platform and to learn about the roles and responsibilities of everyone on the teams.
Supporting Team Members during Uncertainty
Keeping the team motivated during the pandemic was critical. Families and home-life were integrated into work for multiple reasons. Children were at home since daycares were closed, and parents had to watch their children while working. Many people lost their loved ones to COVID-19 as well and needed emotional support. Moreover, people couldn’t travel. Thus, supporting the staff with their mental health was vital.
Healthcare PMs realized that even while leading their teams they had to help them as much as they could and be flexible with work schedules. For example, when a team member couldn’t be on-site because they couldn’t leave their children unattended, others would step-up and cover for them on-site. Speakers also made a point to recognize team members for their contributions to the projects.
Uncertainty can leave many employees feeling alone, so hearing how these project managers banded together to work with and for their team members emphasizes that change, while inevitable, isn’t a solitary task. We can all work together to make those around us feel less uncertain and supported.