Critical Factors for the Creation of Learning Healthcare Organizations

Critical Factors for the Creation of Learning Healthcare Organizations

Nilmini Wickramasinghe (RMIT University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-885-2.ch003


The need to transform the U.S. healthcare system became clear during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was not an unexpected disaster nor was it an exceptionally large event. And yet in the wake of Katrina the loss of life was tragic and emergency health care following the storm was severely hampered by the lack of paper health records that had been washed away or ruined. What is required is a transformation of the current health system to an intelligent health system that maximizes technology and utilizes valuable knowledge assets. To effect such a change healthcare organizations must become learning organizations. The objective of this chapter is to provide a link between principles of organizational learning and knowledge management in order to build the learning healthcare organization. The major thrust of this approach is that the human side of the organization must lead knowledge management technology and not the other way around. The chapter distinguishes between organizational learning as a structure laying the foundation for learning, and the learning organization as a process for maintaining and perpetuating continuous improvement in the organization supported by incorporating a process-centric view of knowledge management (KM) realized through the establishment of a KM infrastructure. Moreover, it emphasizes that since health care is a knowledge intensive industry knowledge management is an integral component in building the learning healthcare organization.
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Background: Knowledge Management And Organizational Learning

A sound knowledge management (KM) infrastructure is a critical consideration for organizations in any industry as they try to wrestle with current challenges to increase efficiency and efficacy of their core business processes, while simultaneously incorporating continuous innovation (Alavi & Leidner, 2001; Markus, 2001; Sharma, Gupta, & Wickramasinghe, 2005). However, the connection between incorporating KM tools, techniques, and strategies, and thereby building a strong KM infrastructure, and simultaneously evolving into a learning organization is not well discussed in the literature and even more poorly achieved in practice (Alavi & Leidner, 2001; Huber, 1991; Markus, 2001; Sharma et al., 2005; von Lubitz & Wickramasinghe, 2006). By recognizing the direct connection between organizational learning and knowledge management it is not only possible to develop a successful KM initiative, but more importantly make the transition to a learning organization. Conversely, by ignoring this integral connection it is highly probable that the KM initiative will not realize its anticipated goals nor be truly successful (Sharma et al., 2005; von Lubitz & Wickramasinghe, 2006).

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