Systems Theory in Healthcare Organizations         


Systems Theory in Healthcare Organizations        


The world we reside in is extremely complex and made up of subsystems. These subsystems interact with each other and each has vividly coherent dynamics and defined boundaries. Ludwig von Bertalanffy developed the systems theory in 19302 with an aim of simplifying the world’s complexity and making it more comprehensible to human beings. Basically, the theory aims at explaining how things function around us. The theory views the world as constituting of smaller subsystems that humans utilize on a daily basis. For instance, a hospital is a systems that has outputs, processes, and inputs. In itself, the hospital is part of a bigger health care system. This paper aims at discussing the systems theory in a healthcare organization.

A department in a healthcare organization that uses the systems theory

The surgical department is a good example of the application of systems theory in healthcare organizations (Walshe & Rundall, 2001). In the department, there are bound to be activities such as physiological monitoring, patient order entry, electronic documentation, and medication administration. In the surgical department, systems theory can be used to ensure professional autonomy, promote the staff’s participation in decision making, and create supportive care environments.

In the light of this discussion, inputs comprise of the resources, energy, and raw materials that processed within the department to enable production of outputs in the department (Begun, Zimmerman & Dooley, 2003). Some of the inputs include funds, information, the efforts from nurses and physicians, the time these professionals use, energy, fuel, individual effort, time, and any other raw material.

Throughput involves the processes utilized by the system in converting energy or raw materials acquired from the environment into services or products that can be used by the environment or system itself. In the surgical department, throughput includes patient’s physical examination, thinking, planning, diagnosing, writing prescriptions, decision-making, patient operation, taking vital signs, sorting, constructing, making speeches, meeting in groups, sharing information, and discussion.

Output is the service or product that results from a system’s throughput and processing of human, financial, social, and technical input. Some of the examples include better health, health services, documents, software programs, money, rules, laws, decisions, bills, clothing, cars, and assistance (Begun, Zimmerman & Dooley, 2003).

Numerous cycles of events may be experienced in the surgical department. These cycles repeat themselves as exports are used to gain more energy to export and reorganize. At times, there are so many patients in the surgical ward such that there are no sufficient healthcare professionals, time, and resources to care for them adequately. As a result, many patients may end up dying as a result of inadequate care and complications. There periods may be followed by stable times where there are adequate staff and resources to care for the few admitted patients. During times when there are many patients to be care for; there is a need for collaboration and assistance from other departments so as to prevent negative repercussions (Walshe & Rundall, 2001).

In the surgical department, the negative feedback includes the collaboration, communication, feedback, and support from other departments and the management that are aimed at promoting quality and the services offered. It is imperative to have mechanisms for using and taking in negative feedback so as to ensure that the system does not end up taking in or expensing too much energy, which would upset the system.

Open systems approach- problem identification

A surgical department comprises of an energic output- input system. The department relies on the supporting environment for sustained inputs, which promotes the inputs’ processes and sustainability through patterned and recurring interactions and activities of individuals to produce the outputs (Glanz, Rimer & Viswanath, 2008). The surgical department is itself a social system where the subsystems struggle to ensure a dynamic steady situation in which energy flow regularities maintain the system’s character. On the same note, disturbances indicate system adaptation.

One of the challenges that the surgical departments is likely to suffer is lack of collaboration and proper coordination between the various professionals that are supposed to care for patients in the department. A surgical department is extremely vulnerable to entropy, an inevitable dissolution and disorder process that results from loss or inadequate inputs and the incapability to transform energies (Walshe & Rundall, 2001). Considering that the healthcare organization is an open system, there is a need for it to have negentropy or negative entropy that can be achieved through some of storage capacity so as to promote its existence. To achieve this, there is a need for inputs such as creating slack resources, storing energy, renewing inputs, and increasing imported energy in relation to exported energy. The surgical department can also counteract entropy through adapting system functioning in reaction to the environment’s feedback and informational signals.

According to the open system theory, the surgical department has a hierarchical nature in which every level has a subsystem consisting of interrelated parts. Each of these subsections has an authority and collaboration between the various subsections is necessary to promote the performance and quality of services offered by the department (Glanz, Rimer & Viswanath, 2008). The surgical department has numerous operations and energy transformation or throughput is experienced in the production subsystems that promote labor division so as to ensure that tasks are accomplished. However, the lack of proper coordination and collaboration in the department is attributable to inequitable division of labor and failure of different individuals to carry out their roles as required. The production system is tasked with transforming energy so as to ensure that all tasks are performed as required as well as optimize task accomplishment through technical proficiency.

It is worth noting that the principal mechanism is labor division and this determines the work flow and structure as far as the production subsystem is concerned. Work subdivision creates work flow breaks but this has continuously been identified as a challenge in the surgical department.

Solving the problem

Desired outcome

            Basically, the key desirable outcome is ensuring that all the subsystems in the surgical department are able to collaborate and coordinate appropriately.


Promoting collaboration in the surgical department would improve patient outcome, employee satisfaction, and performance of the entire department and entity. There is also a need to concentrate on transformational leadership in the department. Another goal is redesigning care so as to optimize on the specialist’s professional knowledge and expertise. the last goal is ensuring that professionals who work in the surgical department are able to work with employees from all other departments and they promote reliable and safe care (Glanz, Rimer & Viswanath, 2008).


            One of the objectives that can guide the stated goal and desired outcome is the integration of work procedures across subunits and roles through the use of coordination devices. With the differentiation of the department, additional coordination and integration are necessary to ensure unification of the system functioning (Begun, Zimmerman & Dooley, 2003).  Therefore, the coordination, complexity, and size require the organization to increase as the subsystems specialize and multiply in function.

To ensure that there are transformational leaders in the surgical department, it will be necessary to invest in leaders who can implement and create environments, products, and programs to satisfy patient needs (Walshe & Rundall, 2001). In addition, there is a need to empower and engage all professionals working in the department to perform as leaders who can provide quality health care. Finally, providing departmental learning opportunities is imperative for leadership teams and individual leaders to learn together as well as come up with tools that can assist in meeting the desired goals and desired outcome.

Optimizing professional knowledge and expertise will be guided by a number of objectives. First, it will be important to produce evidence which will drive the specialist’s practice, legitimize, and recognize knowledge evolution in the environment that is changing rapidly. Second, there will be a need to develop care systems and documentation for supporting nurse workflow. This will help in optimizing patient and specialist interaction whenever it occurs. The last goal will be guided by the desire to consistently exceed and achieve all the set measure targets and compliance to all regulatory standards (Glanz, Rimer & Viswanath, 2008).

Policies and procedures

            In regard to developing transformational leaders, the department will partner with various bodies such as business schools to enable identification of a proper assessment tool through which a gap analysis can be conducted in connection to the present knowledge state about patient safety and quality (Walshe & Rundall, 2001). All professional who work in the surgical department and from all levels will be trained in care process redesign and quality improvement through the use of various programs including educational offerings and poster presentations, shared governance programs, and E3 (Exploring Executive Excellence) mentoring program. On the same note, it will be imperative to use unit boards and shared governance model as the platform for involving nurses in leading patient safety and process improvement initiatives.

A literature review will be conducted in regard to highly reliable systems and personalized health care. It will also be necessary for the surgical department to secure and assess organizational synergy that will promote redesigning care as well as securing appropriate resources (Walshe & Rundall, 2001). Moreover, there will be an analysis of patient experience and care in several areas within the department. The professionals working in the department will participate in the execution and development of focused initiatives that will be based on high risk, high volume, and problem- prone events.

Relevant professional standards

            The workers in the surgical department are supposed to comply with various professional standards. First, they should maintain high levels of professional, personal, and academic integrity and honesty. Second, they should respect confidentiality and privacy. Third, there is a need to demonstrate empathy when interacting with everyone and treat everyone with dignity and respect (Begun, Zimmerman & Dooley, 2003). There is also a need to be accountable for the decisions made and adopt strategies for dealing with misjudgments and errors.

How the proposed resolution can uphold the values, mission, and improve climate and culture at the organization

            It is the desire of every institution to meet the set mission and values (Walshe & Rundall, 2001).  The proposed resolution will assist in meeting these since there will be increased collaboration and coordination within the department and institution and this will translated to better patient outcome. In addition, the collaboration will make solving various issues easy and this will in turn improve the culture and climate.



Begun, J. W., Zimmerman, B., & Dooley, K. (2003). Health care organizations as complex adaptive systems. Advances in health care organization theory, 253, 288.

Glanz, K., Rimer, B. K., & Viswanath, K. (Eds.). (2008). Health behavior and health education: theory, research, and practice. John Wiley & Sons.

Walshe, K., & Rundall, T. G. (2001). Evidence‐based Management: From Theory to Practice in Health Care. Milbank Quarterly, 79(3), 429-457.



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