5 Change Management Practices for Healthcare Transformation Success

September 17, 2019

The move to value-based care means healthcare leaders today are being tasked with guiding their organizations through massive strategic transformations to improve quality, efficiency and effectiveness. These initiatives involve implementing new systems and processes that affect everything from financing to service delivery to the need for increased connections and collaboration with other entities and providers.

But just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll use it.

At its most fundamental level, successful healthcare transformation comes down to effective change management—and the reality is, managing change of any kind is tough. Add in the complexities of the healthcare environment, and it can be an even more daunting task.

For the first episode in our new podcast series, How I Transformed This, we sat down with Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, Salesforce’s SVP and General Manager of Global Healthcare and Life Sciences, who talked about some of the change management challenges healthcare leaders are facing as they work to usher in these sweeping transformations.

Innovative technology is playing a critical role in healthcare’s transformation, she says, from fostering interoperability to coordinating care to improving the patient experience. But all too often, technologists implement solutions without taking into consideration what happens at the point of use. In healthcare, these users include the patient, the caregiver and the people in back offices responsible for handling the administration work. As Virsys12’s Tammy Hawes points out, if the solution doesn’t resonate with the users and make their lives easier, it’s basically useless, because they’ll resist the change every step of the way.

The Changing Role of the Healthcare CIO

Even with a great solution, though, change management isn’t just about telling people how and what to do differently. To effectively lead the change and make sure it takes hold, solid change management practices are essential. As a result, along with healthcare’s transformation, the role of the CIO and other healthcare leaders is changing, too.

“People are recognizing that technology in healthcare is not just a tool,” says Dr. Zenooz. “We have to think of it from a business transformation perspective, so you have to involve the business side of the house. It’s not just implementing things.”

All of this underscores the need for today’s CIOs to be skilled at influencing and managing change. Dr. Zenooz offers several steps CIOs and other healthcare leaders can take to effectively lead and influence change to ensure transformation initiatives really pay off:

  1. Involve end users: Have them sit at the table as equals to provide input. It’s the only way you can truly understand what happens at the point of use. Not only that, involving users upfront gives them a stake in the initiative’s success.
  2. Know what your core principles are: What about conflicting user input or individual “pet projects”? Core principles will keep you focused and set you up for success. Dr. Zenooz recommends interoperability and patient safety as two of those guiding principles.
  3. Develop a clear plan and communicate it to everyone: When people don’t have information, they tend to fill in the blanks, and that’s not always a good thing. Be as transparent in your process as possible and keep people informed so they’re with you and know what’s coming. The fewer surprises the better. Having a good plan in place will also keep you from running into unwelcome surprises on your end.
  4. Establish and track metrics for success: To build the case for change, you need to show the positive outcomes it’s going to deliver. Clear metrics and milestones make it easier to communicate the story of the change to others. And when you know what you’re measuring, you’ll be able to tell if you’re making progress towards your objectives or if you need to adjust the plan.
  5. Get better at failing: In other words, recognize quickly when something’s not working and take advantage of the opportunity course-correct. You don’t want to be three years into a huge implementation when you’re finally facing the fact of that failure. Fail fast and learn and apply the lessons from the experience.

Above all, keep your healthcare transformation initiatives grounded in those core guiding principles, with the patient needs at the center, Dr. Zenooz advises. “As long as you’re centered on that, it’s much easier to get buy in from everyone else around you.”