Keywords: healthcare systems, system of systems, systems thinking, system dynamics, causal models, sustainability indicators, sustainable development, societal needs, financial constraints, environmental expectations, complexity, variability, uncertainty
Applying systems thinking to assess sustainability in healthcare system of systems
Healthcare systems face increasing demands and reduced resources. Therefore, there is growing attention paid to sustainability in healthcare. Healthcare is a complex system of systems. This paper discusses healthcare system challenges and the need to consider a sustainable approach in addressing these challenges. An equitable and balanced approach is required to deal with the demands related to healthcare sustainability including societal needs, financial constraints, and intensifying environmental expectations. System dynamics, a systems thinking approach, is applied to help address the challenges of complexity, variability, and uncertainty related to a sustainable model for healthcare. Causal models illustrating the system dynamics factors and relationships are presented. Analysis of the system dynamics and associated factors produced a notional set of healthcare sustainability indicators. These indicators provide important measures of healthcare sustainability.