April 26, 2021

The introduction of new technology and process is a challenge for any organisation, but change is essential for continuous adaptation to meet emerging needs.

VP of Professional Services for Omnicell International, Kenneth Brewer, explains how, when managed correctly, change is something to embrace rather than fear.

Change management in healthcare, like any other industry, can be a long process that’s not guaranteed to be completed successfully. People are naturally resistant to change and this can often derail efforts to improve healthcare services and detract from the return on investment and realistion of benefits.

There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of technology in healthcare across the globe. There is a growing body of evidence to show that healthcare digitization is helping healthcare systems transform care for patients and working life for staff as well as driving much-needed efficiencies. However, true success only happens if the technology and associated workflows are implemented and adopted in the right way. Change management is the key to achieving this.

Overcoming the challenges of successful digitization of services requires significant cooperation between individual healthcare providers, non-clinical healthcare leaders, clinical front-line staff and industry experts.  A long-term partnership approach is the key to success. The creation of a consistent, positive and common narrative, that openly and honestly acknowledges the opportunities, disagreements and challenges inherent to major transformational change, is crucial. Managing the introduction, acceptance and maintenance of change requires a level of very specific expertise.

The right partner

You need a partner who will use their detailed knowledge and insight to work with you to plan, initiate, implement, control and stabilise your change management programme. They will be committed to your success as much as you are, confirming you have the right solution in place from the offset, helping you to drive adoption and optimising your solution once live for maximum results and maximum contentment in your staff base.

A good change management strategy from the outset

When implementing technology in a healthcare setting it is important the healthcare provider and the industry experts work as one team. You should be able to rely on subject matter experts who can analyse and design workflows that allow for the success of your automation solution. They should also put in place workshops to support you with the change management strategy required.  

The change management process should be a gatekeeper to ensure minimum risk and impact to your ongoing day to day operations. During the implementation, industry experts should provide full support for change management, following a standard operating procedure, which includes change assessment, planning and approval, to eliminate any unintended interruptions. Any partner you are working with should work to ITIL standards.

A good change management strategy should include the following topics:

  • Change and the Organisation: Defining Change
  • Benefits Management
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Communication
  • Change Impact
  • Change Readiness
  • Education and Learning Support: Training Planning
  • Sustaining Change and the Organisation:
  • Defining Change

Engaging staff

As part of the project your partner should consult with you from the offset to learn which types of communication are the most effective in your organization and tailor the engagement element of the change management strategy to reflect this. Getting your people on board is crucial from the offset. What works for one organisation doesn’t necessarily work for another so dependent on your organisation’s culture the approach should be adapted accordingly. Different approaches can include celebratory kick-off events, weekly key-individual team meetings or staff meetings, regular product demonstrations to key staff and end users, project team member “walk-around” through the wards for informal discussions with clinicians and staff. A good partner will spend the time understanding what works best for your organization.

Maintaining momentum after implementation

When your new automation is up and running and the implementation team leave, the challenge is maintaining momentum to drive adoption of the solution and ensure you successfully meet your goals. A deeply rooted, heavily engaged partnership will be your pathway to success. Failure to have this in place can lead to unnecessary further investment on change/turnaround consultants and external auditors, often when the fix can be relatively simple to achieve, for example user compliance, training or engagement in the process at a senior level.

The role of your industry partner should be to support you in consolidating, measuring and driving the adoption rate of your investment and helping you to set and progress along your roadmaps to deliver return of benefits and return on investment success. They’ll have a clear way to actively manage your progress. Their subject matter experts should work with you to create a network of internal system administrators and superusers trained to the highest standards to advocate adoption of the solution.

Dealing with challenges and resisters

A final key element of ensuring a successful project is the approach to dealing with challenges and resisters. In many cases ‘resisters’ to change are actually those who are fearful of the change even when the resistance manifests itself in other types of behaviour.

The first approach should be to spend additional time with them reinforcing the rationale for the project and trying to instill confidence that the project team can help them be successful in making the transition. Use-case examples can also help. Industry experts have seen many people in the same situation make the transition to new technology successfully, and they should emphasize that to their new partners. They may even offer to take these individuals to see sites where systems have been successfully implemented so they can witness it first-hand and speak to their peers. Fundamentally it is about selling the benefits of the system to the users, both for the individual, for their department and for the whole healthcare setting. The attitude of resisters is an important barometer of the hidden feelings of other less outspoken staff, so it is important to get them on board in terms of adopting the system.

Looking to the future

Technology doesn’t standstill, it continues to evolve so you need to find a partner who will be there for you every step of the way, supporting you on the road to success with every change that comes along. It is only by working in this way that we will continue to improve care for patients as well as supporting staff to work at the top of their clinical licence.

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