Follow This Prescription for Healthcare Transformation Success

Posted by Paula Alsher on Thu, Oct 06, 2016 @ 10:54 AM

Transformational change can be found across almost every organization in just about every industry. But, truth be told there may not be an industry undergoing more significant and rapid change than Healthcare.  In addition to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Healthcare industry is experiencing a myriad of other Healthcare Change Managementchanges.  The implementation of cross-functional patient care models, cost-efficiency driven operational changes, new facilities, and ongoing compliance requirements are just the tip of the iceberg. 

The impact of these changes is complex, especially in an industry that is historically and culturally cautious (even risk-averse) and slow-moving.  The key stakeholders for many changes, particularly those in clinical delivery, are physicians.  These individuals invested significant time and money obtaining the knowledge and credentials to practice medicine, rather than lead and drive a market-oriented organizational mission.  However, in our current system of Healthcare delivery one can't exist without the other.


The How-to for Healthcare Transformation Success

There is little doubt that the old models for Healthcare delivery can no longer deliver high quality outcomes while managing consumer satisfaction and profitability.  Healthcare organizations must become more proficient and effective in leading and implementing change.  In our change management consulting work, we have identified 5 specific organizational capabilities to leading Healthcare transformational changes:

1.  Get alignment among senior leaders on what the definition of "success" really is. 

It may sound really basic, but it's not unusual for us to talk to clients in the Healthcare industry where senior level Sponsors are not aligned about what the scope of the change really is, and how they will measure the success of the implementation. We use five measures of project success, based on our 30+ years of field research on what works when it comes to implementation:

If you settle for anything less than these measures on your Healthcare transformational changes you can be certain that you will not get to full benefit realization!

2.  Identify how the change will impact different Target groups so you can anticipate the levels of resistance to the change.

It's particularly important to distinguish what the impact of the change will be for various "Target" groups.  For example, if you are implementing a clinical change, what will the change mean to nursing staff, to physicians, to supporting departments like radiology, and even patient billing?

Once you know what the level of impact or what we call "disruption" will be, you will be able to prospectively determine the anticipated resistance to the change, since resistance is directly correlated to the amount of disruption.

3.  Make "active" Sponsorship a top priority.  Don't rely solely on steering committees as your Sponsors.

Even if you have a steering committee, you will need to build a "cascade" of Sponsors, at each level of management, and in all the areas impacted by your change.  These Sponsors have 3 very important responsibilities:

They must Express their personal commitment to the change.

They must Model their personal and group commitment by what they are doing.  We know that actions speak louder than words!  These actions can include:
     - Where they devote their time
     - Where they allocate resources
     - How they prioritize projects in their own areas of control

They must Reinforce the new ways and make it harder to go back to old methods and practices.  For example, if you are implementing new clinical technology, are you making it easier for physicians to use the new system, and harder to go back to the old way of practicing?  

4.  Given the importance of reinforcement, you must have "implementation-specific" reinforcements that are being applied frequently on "implementation-specific" measures to accelerate the change.

The more that you measure the specific behaviors associated with the change, and have leaders and managers apply "implementation-specific" reinforcements (positive and negative consequences), the faster your change will get implemented.

Process changes follow reinforcement.  Simply put, people do what they are reinforced to do, by the individuals who have the greatest impact on their performance {Tweet This}.  No steering committee has the requisite positional authority that the manager of the individual has.

5.  Develop a Change Agent network that is comprised of individuals with trust and credibility with Sponsors and Targets in operating groups at the local level.  Technical project knowledge should not be the primary determining factor in selecting a Change Agent.

You can't throw a Change Agent who is an "unknown quantity" into an organization and expect to have a fully-productive Change Agent.  Not only do you need sufficient numbers of Change Agents-- they have to be distributed based on the relationships they have with the people in that organization.

For example, if you have a Change Agent that is an expert in cross-functional patient care models, but has no previous relationships with physicians, that person will not be an immediately effective Change Agent with the physician population. Bottom-line: subject matter-expertise is not enough.


So, if you are in the Healthcare industry and are setting out to accomplish a large, enterprise-wide change, remember achieving full adoption will require a disciplined, rigorous approach. When you follow a repeatable change process like the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM), you will learn how to develop effective Sponsors, recruit credible Change Agents, and develop meaningful reinforcements so you get the intended return for your investment.  In doing so, you will stay competitive and profitable, while still remaining focused on your most important mission: quality patient care.

5 Essential Steps for Leading Change in Healthcare eBook

Topics: Transformational Change, Healthcare and Electronic Medical Records, Value Realization/ROI