A concise guide to systems from Find What Works

A great, straightforward guide to systems from “Find What Works” (by Dave Algoso), that explains pretty well the different layers of thinking about systems. I summarize his post below about healthcare, but in the titles one could easily substitute just about any other field and add its own description. He distinguishes four levels of complexity, and refers to “zooming out” from Level 1 at the center to Level 4:

  • Level 1 – “Thinking about healthcare”: Focused on the patient, and the doctor-patient interaction that offers prevention or treatment.
  • Level 2 – “Thinking about healthcare systems”: Focused on all of the distinct elements that make that doctor-patient interaction possible (he cites: policy & governance; financing; physical facilities; patient access; workforce development; supply chains; health information systems)
  • Level 3 – “Systems thinking about healthcare systems”: Systems thinking adds complexity by considering not just the impact of each element on patient care, but also on all the other elements of the system. (eg: effects of policy on supply chains or workforce development; effects of healthcare information on policy; effects of financing on access or facilities or supply chains…)
  • Level 4 – “Systems thinking about healthcare”: At this level, Algoso says, we zoom out beyond the health care system and consider everything that affects health – environment, working conditions, water & sanitation, conflict & stability, food security, etc etc…

At each level, things get more and more complex, and interventions to improve healthcare will depend on what level of analysis we are using. I find this stuff fascinating, especially when it’s presented in such a clear, concise way. Next, I do a little thought exercise on using this analysis in a different context.


About developingnathan
I am a reflective person. I am an introvert, a friend, a brother and a son. I appreciate a well-crafted glass of beer, piece of music and turn of phrase. I am a professional of international development, a good pianist and a Green Bay Packers fan.

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