Service Definition

Re-thinking the Way You Work

Service Definition is the first step in developing or modifying a new or existing service. This essentially involves developing an understanding of organisation and end-user needs, followed by a process of generating service ideas, including consideration of the internal processes required to support any proposed changes.

If you’re thinking about expanding your service offering, it’s important to first get clear about what’s driving you. Is it profitability? Politics? Or a need to meet increased demand? Maybe it’s a bit of everything. It’s really important to understand your true motivation; doing so will help you to define the scope of the service changes that you plan to make.

Get to Know your Market
The health sector is filled with examples of seemingly “new” ideas that someone else is already doing better. First stop? Check out your competitors. Other services are a valuable and often underutilised resource. There’s much to learn from those already doing what you want to do – and often opportunities for partnership. Perhaps consider ways you might pick up excess referrals or service a funding source that the existing provider would prefer not to deal with (hello insurance companies!).

Know Your Strengths
Take time to consider your onsite resources. What is the treatment environment like? Does it suit the clients you want to attract? If not, can it be improved or modified? What skills and knowledge do you have within your team? Remember, recruitment isn’t the only answer here; think about upskilling the staff you already have. Just ask us – it’s one of our favourite things to do! Mentoring or clinical supervision (perhaps from a service already out there) can really help to facilitate confidence and problem solving – particularly in the early stages.
Working through these factors will ultimately determine the inclusion and exclusion criteria of the service; that is, the level of funding required and the clinical presentations for which you have the space, resources and expertise to treat. With this information, you can start to think in practical terms about service delivery models.

Service Jenga – Getting it Right
There are many ways to structure a service. It can be tempting to draw on the model(s) already in use (e.g. one-on-one sessions), but sometimes a rethink is well worth the time and effort. A quick review of the outcomes literature can also be quite informative in this regard. For example, how much one-to-one treatment do people really need to make a difference? It’s often a lot less than we think. Group sessions also offer additional benefits – for example, being able to share and problem-solve with other participants – however, the group setting isn’t suitable for everyone.

Engagement – it’s a big deal
All this highlights an important issue: the need to consider the patient’s capacity to attend and engage. Health services are often geared toward providing high quality interventions, and usually do so really well. However, most patients are not ready to engage in action-oriented treatment as from the get-go. This is particularly the case for those with chronic health conditions, where the clinical picture is often complicated by psychosocial concerns.
To obtain a successful outcome with these populations, your assessment and treatment design needs to incorporate a proper understanding of change-readiness. Ask yourself: how can you make sure the treatment/s offered are flexible enough to accommodate those who are not yet ready to change? How can you build patient engagement and still cover costs?
There are a number of ways to do this. Information sessions are one way to introduce patients to a service, to provide basic information and to find out if they’re willing and ready to take the next step. Many services also now offer time-limited “preparatory” treatment programs. These offer patients an opportunity to sample treatment and prepare for change before they embark on a more intensive approach.

Rally the Troops
Given the complexity involved in navigating all these factors, successful service development usually requires a “champion” – most commonly a senior member of the allied health team. In the interests of practicality, even the most collaborative teams need a point of contact to hold all information together and liaise with key stakeholders.
It’s important to ensure that internal communication processes support the timely flow of information, in consultation with the administration team. It’s so easy to underestimate the amount of paperwork involved in establishing and running a new service (we all do it!). Determine whether your requirements can be added to existing processes or if they’ll require new systems or staff to run effectively.
Finally, make sure that you incorporate a data-collection process into the service early on so that you can easily track financial and clinical outcomes, and make adjustments accordingly as the service develops.

Innovative Rehab works with existing health services to design and implement quality allied health programs. We specialise in service development in populations where recovery from chronic illness is complicated by psychosocial barriers.
Want to know more? Drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

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