Change management in healthcare is ever-present, challenging, and demanding.
Because of this, numerous change management frameworks have been explored and implemented around the world.
Let’s explore change in healthcare from a bird’s eye perspective.
Change Management In Healthcare: The Basics
Change management in healthcare presents a slightly different landscape than change management in the private sector.
As we’ll see below, however, healthcare can — and in some cases does — make use of change management tools and techniques that are found in the private sector.
Before exploring some of these, however, let’s look at the unique challenges facing healthcare change management.
The healthcare industry faces more barriers to change than the private sector.
In the private sector, barriers to change are often internal. Employee resistance, budget restrictions, culture, and so forth.
In addition to these, healthcare institutions face other problems:
- Health care organizations are extraordinarily large and complex
- There are many parties with many — often competing — interests, such as patients, doctors, nurses, administrators, and so forth
- Medical institutions must abide by more legal restrictions
- Some institutions have restricted access to funding
Given this context, it is understandable that health care change can be a daunting task.
Many change management models used in health care are different from those used by the private sector.
In the private sector, common change management frameworks include:
- The Lewin Model
- Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model
- The Kubler-Ross Curve
- Satir Change Model
Healthcare industries in different countries, however, use different models.
For instance, according to research by Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Toronto, three models have arisen in the healthcare industry.
These models are specifically geared towards change in healthcare contexts:
- Lukas et al.’s Organizational Model for Transformational Change in Healthcare Systems
- Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF)’s Evidence-Informed Change Management Approach
- Canada Health Infoway Change Management Framework
The research report stated that these 3 models shared a number of similarities with models from the business literature.
Among those similarities were the necessity for leadership, engagement with stakeholders, education and training, and monitoring and evaluation.
Of course, these are not the only change models implemented by healthcare institutions.
For instance, healthcare leadership consultant Tim Durkin suggests that institutions start by defining their “4 R’s.” These stand for Reason, Result, Route, and Role.
GE Healthcare formulates effective change in the equation, Q x A3 = E. This means, “Quality (Q) can produce effective results (E) only to the extent that there is employee alignment, acceptance, and accountability (A3).”
The health care change models mentioned here just scratch the surface, of course.
The breadth of healthcare change management literature on this topic is considerable. So, too, are the number of approaches to change management.
However, many works reference the work of Kurt Lewin.
Of all the industry models, his work is perhaps the most influential in the change management industry.
One of the biggest drivers of change in the healthcare industry is technology.
Technology is evolving rapidly. And it is taking virtually every industry with it, including healthcare.
For instance, in the United States, hospitals have been adopting electronic medical records (EMR). Moving to digital medical records has required many institutions to rework their entire medical records systems.
Technology adoption and change management in healthcare are fraught with the same challenges as technology adoption in any other industry:
- Employees must learn new technology, software, and workflows
- They must cope with the potential threat of automation
- Organization leaders must attempt to manage change on top of their already-overwhelming schedules
- The complexity of healthcare organizations requires massive coordination on multiple levels
According to a report by the National Center for Healthcare Leadership, people are most motivated by opportunities or threats.
One way to break down resistance is to emphasize the opportunities of technology, rather than its potential threats.
In healthcare settings, there are several ways to communicate these benefits. Electronic records are more legible than handwritten records. Digital documents are less likely to be lost. Information is easier to access.
However, once technology is introduced, employees are often faced with another problem…
In healthcare and other industries, constant technology onboarding takes its toll.
Because of this, technology can be viewed as a “multi-headed hydra.” Not only does it cause change, it brings a steep learning curve.
Effective software training can help neutralize this “threat.”
Today’s most advanced training solutions come in the form of digital adoption platforms, such as WalkMe.
Digital adoption platforms layer themselves on top of other existing technologies. They then walk users through the software where and when necessary.
This type of platform significantly mitigates the “threat of technology,” reducing user frustration, lowering barriers to adoption, and increasing productivity.
Change in the healthcare industry is constant.
And, if today’s predictions are to be believed, the pace of that change will only accelerate.
To keep up, healthcare institutions will need to implement effective change management solutions, tools, and frameworks.