Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic is considered a major disruptive event of this decade, raising unforeseen socio-economic implications worldwide. This novel virus has increased the influx of patients in hospitals, and healthcare organisations are facing unprecedented constraints in their operations to deal with increased demand and pressed capacity. Thus, this article evaluates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare systems' demand, resources and capacity and provides research directions.

Design/methodology/approach: This is a viewpoint article and uses timely information on healthcare operations from both scholars and managers, published by diverse sources during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Findings: The authors discuss the focus on “flattening the curve of infection” as a measure to protect healthcare, delay the impact of increased demand and reorientate healthcare supply chain practices. Furthermore, the authors evaluate the role of lean practices on managing demand and capacity and improving quality across healthcare operations and supply chain. Finally, the authors suggest research directions on modern operational issues that emerged during this pandemic, such as discussions around the sustainability of lean post-pandemic, “just in time” practices, inventory trade-offs and lack of organisational responsiveness during untenable events.

Originality/value: In this article, the authors provide a contemporary assessment of the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare operations, underscoring main economic and operational elements that can be affected, such as unforeseen demand, resources and capacity shortage. Therefore, the authors assess that healthcare organisations, practitioners and governments have to anticipate operational and economic impacts and, ultimately, to reassess their plans to deal with such adverse events.

Cite as

Leite, H., Lindsay, C. & Kumar, M. 2020, 'COVID-19 outbreak: implications on healthcare operations', The TQM Journal, 33(1), pp. 247-256. https://doi.org/10.1108/TQM-05-2020-0111

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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