Funded PhD Opportunity An Investigation of Hospital Efficiency

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Business and Management Studies


This project will be about the efficiency of the operation of hospitals. It involves studying patient flow in hospitals comprising: capacity management, admission policies and the use of modern IT techniques. A central theme will be to compare hospitals that are organized around diseases, by means of clinical pathways, to traditional hospital layouts. The concepts of service design and process management will be important for this research study. These concepts have received research attention in the past but there is limited empirical work examining both factors in the hospital setting. Through operationalizing focus as a service design approach and quality improvement (QI) initiatives as process management efforts, it is hypothesized that focus and QI initiatives affect clinical quality both individually and collectively.

The synergies between service design and process management have been repeatedly argued for in the literature. Service design includes the design of a mix of physical and non-physical components in a service system (Goldstein et al, 2002). Effective service design adopts simplified and standardized components and processes, through which it reduces variations, improves quality and efficiency (Ding, 2015)). Service design approaches and results may vary significantly from industry to industry, service systems and accompanying offerings are largely interlinked through various processes, which can be “‘engineered’ for strategic service positioning purposes” (Shostack, 1987; p.34).

Process management, on the other hand, “involves concerted efforts to map, improve, and adhere to organizational processes” (Benner and Tushman, 2003; p. 238). By orchestrating the inter- linked processes within an organization, process management practices can reduce process variations and increase process control, resulting in reduced operating costs, improved service quality, and better financial outcomes (Ahire and Dreyfus, 2000). Through adopting simplified and standardized processes and components, service design helps reduce the variation in organizational processes and subsequently the complexity in process management (Zu et al., 2008).

The interaction between service design and process management further improves both internal and external quality (Ahire and Dreyfus, 2000). Although the synergies between service design, process management and operational efficiency have received research attention, they are rarely supported with empirical evidence (Ding, 2015). As service design and process management involve standardizing and routing key components in a service system (e.g., technology, facilities, people, processes), their results may not be noticeable in short periods (Hyer et al., 2009).

Prior studies have used cross-sectional approaches which cannot effectively address endogeneity issues e.g., hospitals with larger sizes and longer history are more likely be involved in quality improvement initiatives (Greene, 2008). Through operationalizing focus as a service design approach and quality improvements (QI) initiatives as process management efforts, an investigation of these factors on clinical quality can be performed. The movement toward triple aims (i.e., better health, better care, lower cost) within the healthcare industry provides the justification for a longitudinal study on clinical quality and hospital efficiency

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
12 March 2018

Contact Supervisor

Dr Alan McKittrick

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #238025 when applying for this PhD opportunity