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Healthcare Change Initiatives: How to Secure Results with a Proven Approach?

Published on
July 5, 2023

Healthcare change initiatives: how to secure results with a proven change management approach? As we navigate the fast-paced and ever-evolving landscape of modern healthcare, it becomes increasingly apparent that effective change management is not just a nice-to-have, but a necessity.

In an industry driven by technological advancements, regulatory shifts, and a persistent push for improved patient outcomes, healthcare organizations across the world are confronted with the need for significant change initiatives that deliver results to their customers, patients, employees and the society at large.

However, driving successful change in the healthcare industry is a complex endeavor filled with potential pitfalls and challenges. As such, securing results in these initiatives is crucial.

This article looks into the heart of healthcare change initiatives and the indispensable role of change management in driving their success. It explores the journey from understanding the change needed to the process of navigating through each phase of change: preparation, deployment, and anchoring the change.

We shall also examine essential elements like effective sponsorship and managing resistance, vital elements in the wheel of successful change implementation.

Throughout, the focus remains on securing tangible, sustainable results as the hallmark of successful change initiatives.

Whether you are a healthcare leader initiating a change process, a manager responsible for its implementation, or a team member aiming to understand your role in the bigger picture, this article provides insights to navigate the challenging yet rewarding terrain of healthcare change initiatives.

So, let's embark on this journey together, unraveling the intricacies of change management and its pivotal role in transforming healthcare outcomes.

To receive your complimentary copy of our free PDF Guide "How to change & transform your organization to succeed in a turbulent times (keeping your people on board)" for healthcare / pharmaceutical & medical devices organizations, simply click on this link.

Change Management in Healthcare with the PDA approach

Understanding the nature of change in Healthcare

Healthcare change initiatives seek to improve the aspects of healthcare organizations' operations, services, or culture.

These initiatives can range from the implementation of new technologies, such as electronic health record systems, to significant structural changes like mergers or reorganizations. They might also involve cultural shifts, aiming to improve patient care, safety, and satisfaction, or operational changes to enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

In our current rapidly changing environment, change initiatives are needed to continually adapt and grow in an environment marked by technological advancement, evolving patient expectations, regulatory alterations, and the perpetual pursuit of improved clinical outcomes.

The aim of these initiatives is to deliver better healthcare services, align with industry standards, improve patient outcomes, and ensure long-term organizational sustainability. In essence, they play a vital role in the overall advancement of the healthcare sector, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and continuously raising the bar of excellence.

The change management process in healthcare initiatives

Successful change initiatives are rarely spontaneous or haphazard.

Instead, they follow a structured, strategic approach - a process known as change management.

In most healthcare change initiatives, the change management process is generally categorized into three distinct but interconnected phases:

1. Preparation and planning of the change strategy and plans :

This initial phase involves understanding the necessity for change and planning how to implement it. It includes assessing the current state, defining the desired future state, identifying the gaps in-between, and developing a strategic plan to bridge those gaps. At this stage, communication is key. therefore, building a "Story for Change" will be indispensable to explain the why and what of the change to all stakeholders and preparing them for the journey ahead.

2. Deployment: The deployment phase is where the actual implementation of the change initiative takes place. It involves managing the transition from the current state to the desired future state. This phase is often the most challenging as it involves steering the organization through disruptions and dealing with resistance that may arise. It is in this phase that we will work through the change plans that we created, and interact with the different groups of stakeholders who will be impacted by the change. A key element is to ensure they know about the change, to gauge their desire (or lack thereof) to move to the new reality and to support them as they start learning about the new processes, skills or practices needed to succeed.

3. Anchoring Change: The final phase ensures that the changes implemented are not transient but become embedded in the organization's routines, systems, and culture. It involves reinforcement strategies, continuous monitoring, and making necessary adjustments to solidify the change and prevent reversion to old ways. Of course, recognizing people and groups who have adopted the change will be key as this will be visible throughout the organization and will show to everyone that the change is possible and that many people have transitioned to the new reality.

These phases of change management provide a strategic framework that guides healthcare organizations through the tumultuous waters of change, ensuring they emerge successful on the other side, with results that are not just positive but sustainable over the long term.

Phase 1: Preparing for change. Laying the groundwork for successful change in the healthcare industry

The preparation phase is the bedrock upon which successful healthcare change initiatives are built. This stage involves defining the vision for change, assessing current systems, processes and culture, and designing a detailed plan of action for the change initiative.

Key activities during this phase include:
- Performing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
- Identifying potential barriers to change
- Understanding the different groups of stakeholders, how they will be impacted by the change and planning how to engage with each group
- Identifying the main Sponsor and the people that can help to raise the awareness of the need for change
- Developing a robust communication strategy
- Resource planning and risk mitigation strategies, are also critical elements of the preparation phase.

💡 Application in the Healthcare, Medical and Pharmaceutical industries :

Proactive preparation significantly increases the chances of success, as evidenced in a case study of the Mayo Clinic.

In 2018, the Mayo Clinic undertook one of the most transformative changes in its operational history - the implementation of a unified electronic health record (EHR) system across all its facilities.

This significant transition was driven by the need to standardize and streamline medical records, thereby improving interoperability, reducing errors, and ultimately enhancing patient care. The change involved a strategic shift from multiple record-keeping systems to a single, comprehensive EHR platform powered by Epic Systems Corporation.

Mayo Clinic's implementation was rolled out in multiple phases over a period of three years, involving meticulous preparation, rigorous training, and careful change management.

Their strategic transition was the culmination of meticulous preparation, strategic foresight, and an unwavering commitment to enhancing patient care. This preparation for the change enabled the Mayo Clinic to foresee potential challenges, develop contingencies, and maintain operational continuity during the transition. Moreover, their proactive strategy effectively streamlined patient care across disparate locations, thereby fortifying their commitment to providing seamless, quality healthcare experiences.

This transformation has added significant value to the Mayo Clinic.

- Firstly, it has enhanced patient care by allowing healthcare professionals to access complete and up-to-date patient information at any location in real time. This supports better clinical decision making and reduces the risk of medical errors.

- Secondly, it has improved efficiency by streamlining administrative processes such as billing, scheduling, and patient communication. This reduces operational costs and allows more time for direct patient care.

- Finally, the system provides valuable data for research and quality improvement, supporting the Mayo Clinic's mission to continually advance medical knowledge and practice.

Their triumph underscores the power of proactive preparation, illuminating it as an indispensable practice in leading and managing change in the healthcare industry.

📌 You can read more about this successful change by clicking here

Phase 2:  Deploying change. Execution and management of change in healthcare

The deployment phase is the execution of the meticulously prepared change plan. This stage is often the most visible and the most challenging.

It involves :
- Deploying resources
- Executing action plans
- Managing disruptions
- And dealing with resistance

Key steps during this phase include effective communication of changes, training, support for impacted individuals, monitoring progress, and making necessary adjustments.

The deployment phase also includes celebrating small victories to maintain momentum and morale.

💡 Application in the Healthcare, Medical and Pharmaceutical industries :

A prime example of effective change deployment is Cleveland Clinic's implementation of a new care model to reduce readmission rates.

Cleveland Clinic, renowned for its patient-centered approach to healthcare, introduced a significant change in their care delivery model in the early 2020s, aiming to reduce patient readmission rates. The initiative was centered around creating a robust transition process for patients from hospital to home, thereby ensuring better post-discharge care and minimizing the need for re-hospitalization.

Recognizing the need for change, they implemented an initiative that underscores the immense value of intensive staff training and real-time progress monitoring in effecting meaningful transformation. The Clinic's approach goes beyond mere adoption of a new model; it embodies a commitment to fostering a culture of learning and adaptability.

At the heart of this change was the implementation of an interdisciplinary transitional care team, composed of doctors, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals. This solid team was responsible for developing comprehensive discharge plans, supporting patients and their families to understand self-care practices to put in place post-discharge, and coordinating follow-up care. In addition, the initiative included a thorough training program for the staff involved, ensuring they were fully prepared to support patients in this transition phase.

Another critical component of this initiative was real-time progress monitoring. Using advanced data analytics, the Clinic was able to track patient outcomes, identify trends, and promptly respond to any issues, enabling continuous improvement of the care model.

Wondering what the benefits of this initiative were? 

They were multiple. Not only did it lead to a significant reduction in readmission rates, it also improved patient satisfaction as individuals felt better prepared and supported in managing their health post-discharge. The initiative's success further solidified Cleveland Clinic's reputation for innovation and excellence in patient care, and provided valuable insights that can inform similar changes in healthcare organizations worldwide.

📌 You can learn more about this successful change initiative by clicking here

Phase 3: Anchoring the change to ensure lasting results in healthcare

Anchoring change involves consolidating the gains from the change initiative and integrating them into regular organizational operations. The goal is to ensure that the changes stick and become the new norm.

The final phase ensures that the changes implemented are not transient but become embedded in the organization's routines, systems, and culture.

Techniques to solidify changes include :

- Continuous monitoring and reinforcement
- Ongoing training
- Recognition of successes and of people demonstrating the new behaviors or using the new practices
- And integration of changes into organizational policies, procedures, and culture.

Regular audits, reviews, and feedback are also essential to maintain progress and prevent backsliding.

💡 Application in the Healthcare, Medical and Pharmaceutical industries :

Johns Hopkins Hospital's hand hygiene initiative serves as an insightful case study.

In the early 2000s, Johns Hopkins Hospital recognized the need for improved hand hygiene practices as a vital measure to prevent healthcare-associated infections.

To address this, they launched a comprehensive hand hygiene initiative aimed at ingraining hand hygiene as a non-negotiable norm among their staff.

The initiative was multifaceted, involving:

- the introduction of alcohol-based hand sanitizers at point-of-care locations,
- rigorous training programs to educate staff about the importance of hand hygiene,
- and visual reminders such as posters and digital screens throughout the hospital.
- Perhaps most critically, it included an ongoing monitoring system to track compliance with hand hygiene standards, with real-time feedback provided to staff to reinforce the desired behavior.

Rather than resting on the initial implementation of the initiative, Johns Hopkins took it a step further by ensuring continual reinforcement and monitoring.

This ongoing commitment to change was the key to shifting hand hygiene from a mere protocol to a deeply ingrained practice among healthcare workers. This constant reinforcement fostered an environment that nurtured enduring behavioral change, with compliance becoming the norm rather than the exception.

This change added immense value to the hospital in several ways:

1. Most significantly, it led to a dramatic reduction in healthcare-associated infections, contributing to improved patient safety and outcomes.
2. Furthermore, it created a cultural shift within the organization, embedding a stronger commitment to hygiene and patient safety into the everyday behaviors of staff.
3. The initiative's success also enhanced the hospital's reputation for quality care and commitment to patient safety, reaffirming Johns Hopkins Hospital's position as a leading healthcare institution.

The most resounding proof of its effectiveness is the significant reduction in infection rates - a testament to how reinforcing change not only sustains improvements but also tangibly enhances patient safety and outcomes.

As Johns Hopkins' success story aptly illustrates, reinforcing change is not merely a phase in change management - it is an indispensable practice that ensures the longevity and efficacy of transformation in healthcare.

📌 You can learn more about this successful change initiative by clicking here

The role of sponsorship in healthcare change initiatives

Effective and visible sponsorship is a critical success factor in change management.

Sponsors are typically high-level leaders who champion the change initiative, provide resources, and leverage their influence to overcome resistance.

"Effective" means that leaders don't just back the changes quietly, they actively support them in a way that everyone can see.

These leaders are in the front lines, showing everyone the way by doing things according to the new changes. They don't just advocate for the change - they personify it, modeling the desired behaviors and leading from the front.

They're not just talking the talk, they're walking the walk. Their visible support helps everyone else in the organization understand and trust the changes.  

Leaders who visibly sponsor change initiatives are like human lighthouses, offering direction, demonstrating commitment, and injecting confidence into their teams during the ebb and flow of transformation. It's like they're team captains, leading the way and inspiring everyone to work towards the same goal.

In this way, visible sponsorship can make a big difference in making changes stick and helping the healthcare industry to keep improving.

💡 Application in the Healthcare, Medical and Pharmaceutical industries :

The success of the UK's National Health Service's change initiative to enhance patient-centered care can be largely attributed to active sponsorship from top leadership, highlighting the significant role of sponsorship in driving change.

When the NHS wanted to focus more on patient-centered care, it wasn't just a one-off event. It was a big change that needed strong support, and that's what the top leaders provided.

They were like cheerleaders, always there to back up the change, showing everyone how to put patients first, and reminding them why it matters. Their visible and constant support helped everyone get on board with the new way of doing things.

So, if you want to make a lasting change in healthcare, strong support from leaders is key. They don't just kick off the change, they keep it going and make sure it sticks.

Overcoming resistance to change in Healthcare

Resistance is a common reaction to change initiatives. However, when handled strategically, resistance can be transformed from a roadblock to a stepping stone towards successful transformation.

Preparation for and management of resistance are crucial aspects of change management that ensure smooth navigation of the change process.

Common sources of resistance include fear of the unknown, perceived loss of control, and concerns about increased workload or potential job loss.

Rather than stifling dissenting voices, engaging them and addressing their concerns creates an environment of understanding and inclusivity. By anticipating resistance and planning mitigation strategies, leaders can proactively address concerns, dispel misconceptions, and foster buy-in.

Effective resistance management also involves open communication channels, allowing for feedback and suggestions to refine the change initiative.

In essence, preparing for and managing resistance is not just about overcoming obstacles but about turning these challenges into opportunities to refine and improve change initiatives for the betterment of healthcare outcomes.

💡 Application in the Healthcare, Medical and Pharmaceutical industries :

A noteworthy example of managing resistance to change in the healthcare industry can be found in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) initiative to modernize its services through the implementation of a system known as the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) in the late 2000s. The EPS was designed to allow prescriptions to be sent electronically from the general practitioner's office directly to the pharmacist, streamlining the process and reducing errors.

This change was initially met with substantial resistance from many stakeholders, particularly pharmacists and older patients. Pharmacists were concerned about adapting to the new technology and workflow, and older patients, who are often less comfortable with technology, were worried about losing the paper prescription system they were familiar with.

To manage this resistance, the NHS took several strategic steps.

1. They provided extensive training for pharmacists to help them adapt to the new system.

2. They also launched a public education campaign to explain the benefits of the EPS and reassure patients that they could still request a paper prescription if they preferred.

3. Additionally, the NHS made the switch to EPS gradual, giving stakeholders time to adapt.

4. They also sought regular feedback and made iterative improvements to the system based on this input.

These proactive measures to manage resistance were instrumental in the successful implementation of the EPS. Today, the majority of prescriptions in England were being processed electronically, demonstrating the value of preparing for and managing resistance in driving successful change in the healthcare industry.

The importance of measuring and communicating advancement on the change initiative in your healthcare transformation

Imagine you're on a road trip.

You have a destination, but you don't know how far you've come or how far you've got left to go. It's kind of frustrating, right?

That's what it's like when we don't measure and communicate progress in a change initiative. In the healthcare industry, this is really important.

You see, when we're trying to make big changes in healthcare, like switching to digital records or adopting new treatment methods, it can feel overwhelming for the people involved. They might wonder if their hard work is making a difference. That's where measuring and communicating progress comes in.

Measuring progress means keeping track of how well the change is being put into place. For example, we might look at how many doctors are using a new system, or how much patient waiting times have dropped. This gives us real, concrete facts about how the change is going.

Communicating this progress is about sharing those facts in a clear, easy-to-understand way. We might hold regular meetings, send out newsletters, or create a dashboard that anyone can check to see how things are going. This way, everyone can see the results of their efforts, and feel motivated to keep going.

The results aren't just for motivation, though. They're also a powerful tool for making the change even better. By seeing what's working and what's not, we can make adjustments and keep improving. And that's how we move ahead in transforming the healthcare industry.

So remember, change isn't just about having a good idea. It's also about measuring how that idea is coming to life, communicating the results, and using them to keep getting better. Because in healthcare, every step forward counts.

Are you ready for change?

And there we have it! In the fast-paced world of healthcare, change is our constant companion. But it's more than just a tag-along; it's the spark that drives us to do better, to be better.

By mastering the art of change management, we can turn each challenge into a stepping stone, leading us towards a brighter, healthier future.

Sure, it can get tough. But remember, every step we take is a victory in itself, whether it's planning a new strategy, overcoming a hiccup, or celebrating when new methods become second nature.

It's about the journey as much as the destination.

With dedicated leaders at the helm, the right amount of preparation, and a dose of resilience, we can navigate the seas of change successfully.

Let's keep pushing the boundaries, making healthcare the best it can be.

After all, when we change for the better, we're not just improving our healthcare system - we're improving lives. Let's roll up our sleeves, embrace the change, and together, we can make a world of difference!

🧑🏻⚕️ If you want to learn more about change management in healthcare and how we can help you with your healthcare change management initiatives, book a free strategy call with us today

Silvina Layani

Transform Your
Healthcare Organization

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