Improving health care through service

Working part time as an ER nurse, Dr. Claudia Steinke (MSc '01), assistant professor for the University of Lethbridge's Faculties of Health Sciences and Management, sees firsthand the strengths and weaknesses of our health care system. Through her professional and personal experience, Steinke became less than enchanted with the delivery of service in health care.

"I decided to apply a service management perspective to the design of services in health care when I realized that the system isn't designed to provide an exceptional service experience to people. I view the design of health services from a structural, process and outcome perspective, and at the organizational level, there is a lack of attention placed on developing the structures needed to provide for high levels of service quality in health care.

Dr. Claudia Steinke is passionate about designing health care services that are individualized, humanistic and forward thinking.
This in turn affects the process (i.e. individual actions) by which services are delivered," says Steinke.

"The whole mentality and culture in health care needs to change," says Steinke, whose award-winning dissertation explored staff and patient perceptions of the service experience in emergency rooms. "Even the physical design of an emergency room makes a considerable difference to the service experiences of patients and staff. In addition, there are studies that show the impact of the built environment on the health outcomes of patients. For example, studies show that patients who have a bed overlooking a window have shorter lengths of stay, require less analgesic, and are less irritable," explains Steinke.

Steinke is a member of several different research teams within various organizations, educational institutions and committees, including the Government of Alberta; the Vancouver Board of Trade; the University of Victoria, Faculty of Business; the Vancouver Island Health Authority; Cohos Evamy integratedesign; and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. She has gained a reputation for research excellence, winning an Academy of Management Award in 2009 for her paper on "Empowering Patients through Service Design."

"My research lies at the intersection of five main fields of study: service management, organization theory and design, human resource management, architecture and health care. My focus is largely on designing for climate for service in health care. This starts with the leadership and designing high quality structures for staff because in order for service excellence to be delivered to the end-user (patients), service deliverers (nurses, physicians, etc.) must receive the support of those who serve them," says Steinke. "In my teaching, I teach students to focus on their presence at work, to attend to the built environment and, to anticipate the needs of patients and their families before they ask because those are tangible things that can set the stage for a great service experience."

Steinke is passionate about designing health care services that are individualized, humanistic and forward thinking. She believes the physical design of the service setting plays an important role in this. Integrating her management and health sciences background, Steinke believes her research can influence the quality of services in health care. The 'service' aspect of health care is an area that is poorly understood, insufficiently explored and deserves a much higher presence. "I hope my research brings to light a new way of looking at things. There are many things we can do to improve the system and the quality of services being delivered, but we have to go beyond the boundaries of health care. By integrating different fields, industries, and sectors, we can find innovative solutions to some of the problems we that we currently face in the system," says Steinke.