Change Management: An Essential Ingredient for Successful Digital Transformations in Healthcare
Sep 7, 2022
When it comes to technological innovation in healthcare, there’s good and not-so-great news. Healthcare leaders know that digital health is the future—venture funding for digital health innovations doubled from 2020 to 2021 and will likely hit about $21 billion this year. However, one survey found more than a third of patients have changed (or would change) providers to get a better digital experience. In other words, healthcare organizations do have a willingness to change—they’re just not moving rapidly enough to satisfy patients’ expectations.
Slow change is a phenomenon that’s common in many industries, but in healthcare, change can be particularly difficult to achieve for three reasons:
Many of the more tenured healthcare professionals have spent the entirety of their careers practicing in a more traditional, non-digitized medicine environment. Even for new clinicians, new technology can be disruptive, as any time spent learning is time away from direct patient care.
Healthcare organizations operate on tight margins, so they may not want to earmark dollars toward change.
Despite the development and appointment of new executive roles in support of digital transformation, like chief digital officers and chief innovation officers, healthcare leaders are still trying to balance the need for digital innovation, patient care, and fiscal responsibility.
Despite these obstacles, change is occurring in the healthcare space. In the more progressive and innovation-forward organizations, one best practice has been apparent: If healthcare organizations adopt and prioritize change management from the beginning, transformation is faster and smoother.
Ways to Effect Change Management in Healthcare
It doesn’t matter how many advancements healthcare entities bring into their tech stacks. Without a sweeping commitment to managing organizational change, digital transformation is unlikely to take hold.
Healthcare already faces barriers to digital transformation—from legacy systems to regulatory concerns—so don’t let a lack of planning add to that difficulty. Adopting a change management approach, tools, and strategies can help healthcare organizations avoid some pitfalls to success, accelerate the achievement of their digital management goals, and ensure that project costs remain in check. More importantly, successful change management ensures that patient experience remains high and patient care disruption is limited.
So, what are some best practices that healthcare organizations can apply to change management to ensure success?
1. Begin with small changes.
Making sweeping changes all at once can be overwhelming to any organization. Incremental changes are more easily accepted and possible to implement. Minor tweaks to systems and workflows can afford significant results but cause less stress than implementing a new system or a complete workflow redesign.
Not sure if you can deliver a change in a piecemeal fashion across your workforce? Another solution is to pick pilot users to embrace new technologies on a full-scale level. Once they’re up-to-date, they can serve as champions to bring about companywide adoption.
2. Communicate, communicate, and then overcommunicate.
Managing organizational change is virtually impossible without a communication component. One of the biggest reasons some healthcare systems don’t get on technology innovation bandwagons is that they don’t understand the bigger picture. Even if they’re comfortable learning the tech, they may have trouble seeing how it will impact their and their patients’ experiences. Outlining these long-term benefits will improve employee buy-in and make digital transformation something that’s happening for them instead of to them.
McKinsey research shows that businesses that succeed with digital transformation initiatives tend to be those that value communication. If you ask your team members to change, you owe it to them to explain why the change is necessary, how it will affect them and the people they serve, and what their roles are in the change management journey.
3. Invest financially in change management programs.
While this might seem obvious, many organizations fail to adequately fund or budget for change management in their planning process. Like any initiative, change management requires funding to have a real impact. Therefore, even if your healthcare organization is operating on a lean budget, resist the temptation to pull money away from this vital and valuable digital transformation step. Without an effective and well-thought-out change management process, all your technology, workflow, and strategic investments will suffer when the organization struggles to adopt the new changes.
Further, those on the fence about new changes will notice if you take away change management funding. This may be viewed as a sign that the organization is not serious about its digital transformation initiatives or that they are less important than originally communicated. That’s not the message you want to send. By properly funding the transformation, you’re also making it easier to implement the change on a faster timeline.
4. Fold employee training into your change management strategy.
Employees who are trained on new and existing technologies are more confident. They feel prepared to put what they’ve learned to good use right away. Plus, many take on the role of sharing their insights with co-workers and even patients.
It doesn’t matter if you arrange for in-person, virtual, or hybrid training sessions. As long as the training is applicable and the coursework well-defined, an increase in compliance results. Post-training assistance further fuels adoption.
Technology innovation in healthcare is happening. The healthcare organizations that accelerate their adoption of new digital technologies will position themselves as industry leaders. Change management can be an enormous asset in trying to take the lead position and edge out the rest of the pack, and CTG is here to make the process as smooth as possible.
To start accelerating your digital transformation, reach out today.
As the Managing Director of sales at CTG, Christine is responsible for building and maintaining strong and effective partnerships with clients through development and integration solutions, cloud and infrastructure services, testing and data solutions, and IT outsourcing and managed services. Blanchard earned a degree in computer science and has worked in the IT industry for more than 35 years. She is affiliated with CHIME and HIMSS, two healthcare-focused professional organizations.