A green chalkboard with a though bubble and a stethoscope.
BPR is defined by large-scale organisational change.

An introduction to business process reengineering

Business process reengineering (BPR) is a business management strategy, which involves making changes to structures and processes within organisations, including healthcare services.

The aim of BPR (or business process modelling, as it is also known) is not to make change for the sake of change, but to improve productivity and enable an efficient and effective environment where work happens.

BPR and BPI

It’s important not to confuse BPR with business process improvement (BPI).

Although BPI can lead to BPR, BPI is focused much more on small processes, work areas or units and is contained to iterative change.

For example, BPI might look at eliminating duplication and redundant processes such as asking a patient for their detail’s multiple times in their patient journey through the hospital.

These duplicate activities increase time taken and cost in the system and should – where possible – be eliminated. (Lean and Six Sigma are just some of tools used to support BPI in hospitals.)

In contrast to BPI, BPR involves – and is defined by – large scale change. For example, systems-wide technological change often plays a big part in executing effective BPR.

Defining BPR

Let’s take a look at how the components of ‘process’ and ‘reengineering’ are defined within the context of BPR.

Process ‘is a structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specified output for a particular customer or market. It implies a strong emphasis on how work is done within an organisation’ (Davenport, 1993).

Reengineering ‘is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance such as cost, quality, service and speed’ (Hammer and Champy, 1993).

The BPR cycle

Business processes are characterised by three elements: inputs, processes and outcomes.

BPR mainly intervenes in the processing part to enable organisations to become more efficient. BPR process involves identifying strategic objectives and process mapping how the organisation works. Following this, the critical processes (eg those which determine strategic advantage) are identified.

These critical processes are then reengineered to create a new process (see diagram).

BPR Cycle
Select image to open an accessible PDF version.
Source: Adapted from Hammer and Champy (2006). Vectors: Getty Images.

Benefits of BPR

The main benefits of implementing BPR are as follows:

  • Increased efficacy and efficiency: By reducing delays in the production of services and responding to customer feedback more quickly, BPR increases the efficiency of the service. By involving employees in the reengineering process, BPR enables not only a greater sense of responsibility, but also more effective service.
  • Reduced costs: By increasing efficiency and efficacy, BPR reduces the costs involved in production and enables long-term savings for the organisation.
  • Increased innovation: By instilling flexibility and autonomy within organisations, BPR creates an environment for innovation to flourish.
  • New opportunities: Through innovation, increased productivity, reduced costs and greater employee responsibility, BPR opens up possibilities for the organisation to explore new business opportunities.

Your task

Before we explore the application of BPR within hospital settings, take a few moments to watch these videos from healthcare leaders:

What did you learn from these videos?

Use the comments to discuss what you think the fundamental principles of BPR are and how they relate to healthcare in general.

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Hospital Operations: Improving Patient Experience

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