Handbook of Healthcare Management

Handbook of Healthcare Management

Research Handbooks in Business and Management series

Edited by Myron D. Fottler, Donna Malvey and Donna J. Slovensky

The Handbook of Healthcare Management is a comprehensive examination of key management practices for global healthcare organizations, arguing that insight into and implementation of these practices is essential for success and sustainability.

Chapter 1: Managing complex healthcare organizations

James W. Begun and Marcus Thygeson

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, strategic management, social policy and sociology, health policy and economics


It is well established that healthcare organizations are among the most complex in society. It also is well established that effective management practice in any organization or setting is context-specific; that is, what works in one context may not work in another. Healthcare management theory built around the assumption that healthcare organizations are distinctively complex, therefore, is likely to be more useful in management practice. We review several guidelines for managing complex healthcare organizations that emanate from the theoretical assumption that healthcare organizations are complex. Some guidelines derive from what is referred to as “complexity science” or “complexity theory”; most come from observers who “simply” appreciate, implicitly or explicitly, that healthcare organizations are complex. (There is much similarity between guidelines that derive from the two sources, as one might hope.) We then make recommendations for taking more seriously the complexity of healthcare management in the education and research arenas.