Logistics in hospitals: what is it about?

With the main question being what role logistics plays in hospital strategy I started literature research in 2016. A more specific question for this research was which logistical parameters were mentioned in relation to hospitals. We (by ‘we’ I mean the PhD team with three (assistant) professors and me, see ‘About me’) took parameters as variables that could be controlled or improved. The type of literature research we chose was a scoping study [1]. A scoping study is used for broad topics and it aims to identify all relevant literature on a certain topic, without assessing the quality or validity of the research done.

Let alone the question I was interested in, the literature research itself was a challenge for me. The last time I did literature research was probably in my Master Thesis and since then (18 years ago) a lot had changed. There is an immense overload of articles and information found on the internet (Google Scholar for example) and there are numerous databases, of which I had never heard. PubMed for example has so much as 27 million citations. As I am a learning by doing person, I just started to search on ‘Hospital AND Logistics’ in PubMed. That led to hundreds of thousands of articles. A screening of the first ten articles that showed up, already pointed out that maybe this was not the literature I was thinking of when it comes to logistics. For example I found: Qualitative study of patients and health-care professionals’ views on the efficacy of the nutrition as medication oral nutrition supplement program. Or: Impact of long-acting local anesthesia on clinical and financial outcomes in laparoscopic colorectal surgery. 

In the abstracts of these articles there were indeed logistical parameters mentioned – operative time, reoperation time, readmission in this case. The word ‘logistics’ was not always in the abstract though. As I found out, PubMed automatically searches for ‘MesH Terms’, a sort of synonyms that PubMed links to terms when a user of PubMed searches for terms in All Fields. In this case the linked MesH terms for ‘Logistics AND Hospital’ were: organization and administration, hospitals. The last one is an obvious one that I would not want to miss out. But searching on both ‘organization’ and ‘administration’ widened my result range in a way that was, perhaps, not right for my research question. Are logistics, administration and organization related? Surely, but they are not the same. I decided to continue my search on the Abstract and Title, only looking for articles in which the actual word ‘Logistics’ and the word ‘Hospital(s)’ was included. This was my first discovery: maybe it was unclear what logistics in hospitals is actually about or rather: perhaps logistics is about everything that is not strictly medical. In any case that meant I had to search in a smarter way than just looking for ‘Logistics AND Hospital(s)’.

[1] If you want to read more on scoping studies, I used the work of Arksey and O’Malley. See: Arksey H, O’Malley L (2005) Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 8(1): 19-32


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