Improving hospital efficiency is a critical goal for managers and policy makers. We draw on participant observation of the perioperative coaching program in seven Ontario hospitals to develop knowledge of the process by which the content of change initiatives to increase hospital efficiency is defined. The coaching program was a change initiative involving the use of external facilitators with the goal of increasing perioperative efficiency. Focusing on the role of subjective understandings in shaping initiatives to improve efficiency, we show that physicians, nurses, administrators, and external facilitators all have differing frames of the problems that limit efficiency, and propose different changes that could enhance efficiency. Dynamics of strategic and contested framing ultimately shaped hospital change commitments. We build on work identifying factors that enhance the success of change efforts to improve hospital efficiency, highlighting the importance of subjective understandings and the politics of meaning-making in defining what hospitals change.
Keywords: framing; hospital efficiency; organizational change; professions.