The Best Strategies for Managing Change in Healthcare | Change Management Guide for 2020-2021

Change management in healthcare, just as in any other industry, can be a long process that’s not guaranteed to be completed successfully. People are naturally resistant to change, which can often derail efforts to leading change in healthcare.

To ensure a healthcare change project is completed successfully and learn how to sustain change in healthcare workplaces, a change management model and methodology is often used.

Change models in healthcare provide a roadmap for change and a framework to get past barriers to change. Change models also help with strategies for implementing change in healthcare using proven tactics based on human behavior.

Why is change important in health care and how do you implement it?

We’re going to answer those questions and more in this AGS article on leading and sustaining change in healthcare.

What You’ll Learn

This article will cover answers to some of the most prevalent questions about the importance of change management in healthcare, including:

  • What is change in healthcare?
  • What is a change model in healthcare?
  • Is there change management in healthcare PPT to review?
  • What are the most popular change management theories in healthcare?
  • What are some of the driving forces of change in healthcare?
  • What does implementing culture change in healthcare mean?

Anyone that’s dealing with facilitating change in health and social care will find valuable information here that can be used for managing change in healthcare successfully.


The Healthcare Sector Continues to Evolve

The healthcare industry is always evolving. Changes in healthcare come from advances in technology, new regulatory compliance requirements, and the need to continually improve efficiency and quality of care.

World events can also cause changes in health care processes. For example, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the environment for healthcare providers.

The sudden increase in telehealth use and reduction in elective procedures are both drivers for change in healthcare for organizations that want to stay competitive.

managing change in healthcare

Organizational Change in Healthcare

What are some of the recent changes in healthcare?

Here are a few examples of drivers for implementing change in healthcare organizations:

  • Advances in artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Blockchain electronic health records
  • Telemedicine used both at home and in hospitals
  • Changes to wide-reaching regulations, like the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Increased mobile device use
  • Modernization of payment options


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What is Healthcare Change Management?

Change management is used in multiple industries, in addition to healthcare, to offer a framework for guiding people and organizations through a change. Change models are used to instruct change managers in creating, implementing, and sustaining successful plans for a change project.

Healthcare change management is simply the application of change management in a healthcare setting. Examples of organizational change in healthcare would be if new software was being adopted for digital patient health records or if a new appointment setting protocol was being implemented.

Any type of change to “the way we do things” in any way is considered a change and requires managing change in healthcare to transition an organization successfully.

What is Change Management in Health Care?

When looking at how to implement change in healthcare, it’s important to look for change models that focus on people.

Because healthcare is care and patient-based and involves multiple team members, such as nurses, doctors, lab technicians, and others, the most successful change models in healthcare will focus on the human element of guiding people through the change.

If the change model you’re using isn’t centered on how people react to change and strategies on getting them past resistance to change, then there’s a good chance your change initiative won’t be successful or won’t be sustained.

Change management strategies in healthcare have to consider all the stakeholders involved, which can be everyone from billing to frontline medical staff to patients receiving services.


Why is Change Management Important in Healthcare?

Change management models in healthcare help ensure those managing a change project don’t miss important factors when it comes to guiding people and organizations through a change.

For example, steps to implement change management in healthcare will include things like planning communications, putting together a team of change champions, and evaluating readiness for change.

Without the type of strategic and methodical roadmap that’s provided by using change management in healthcare, it can be very difficult to make an important change successfully that might make patient care more efficient or reduce costs.

Change is often described as a process of undoing current behaviors, teaching new ones, and then ensuring the new behaviors become the new norm. Steps to implement change in healthcare take that transition into consideration and give change managers tools to help make it happen.

Why is change management important in healthcare?

Ensuring change is successful in healthcare is important because if changes in health care fail to provide desired results or leave some people confused between the “old way” and “new way” of doing things, the costs can be very high and could impact patient care.


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Healthcare is Changing Rapidly Because?

Before we get into some models of change management in healthcare that organizations use, let’s discuss why change is happening so rapidly in healthcare.

The healthcare field has multiple moving parts and is also continually evolving. Just about every single person on the planet has a healthcare interaction at least once, and likely several times, during their life.

When evaluating change in healthcare, we find several factors that are drivers for change in healthcare.

Medical Discoveries

From the invention of the Polio vaccine to advances in autism treatments, medical discoveries continue to push the boundaries of healthcare forward. This often requires changes in healthcare to adopt new treatments, drugs, and therapies.

Technology Advances

New software applications for billing or scheduling, telemedicine robots, and advanced IoT equipment that can send patient readouts to a doctor’s phone are all examples of tech advances that require change management healthcare strategies to implement.

Regulatory Changes

Those in the healthcare industry have to comply with regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Medicare/Medicaid, and ACA. Any changes in those regulations require changes in health care procedures, which means personnel needs to learn new ways of doing things.

Cost Cutting/Efficiency Improvements

Another reason for leading change in health and social care is due to efficiency improvements and cost-cutting in an organization.

An organization may automate certain processes to make them more efficient. They may also make changes in the way personnel are scheduled to reduce their labor costs. These are both examples of organizational change in healthcare.

Changes in Patient Behaviors

Dramatic changes in patient behavior, such as not wanting to risk coming in during a pandemic, are responsible for recent changes in healthcare. If patient behavior changes, then healthcare facilities have to evaluate how to respond.

This can lead to implementing change in healthcare organizations to reach patients electronically as well as make them more secure that they’ll be protected when receiving care.

managing change in healthcare

Examples of Organizational Change in Healthcare


Strategies for Implementing Change in Healthcare | Best Change Management Models

There are several strategies for implementing change in healthcare based upon a particular change management model. Some organizations may be more familiar with a certain change model in healthcare over another and use it for any kind of change.

Others may search online for change management in healthcare PPT or any change management PPT to help them understand which is the best model to use.

Honestly, it can get confusing when you try to choose which change management methodology to use for facilitating change in health and social care. But it helps to remember some of the basics that they all address in different ways.

These basics of change management theories in healthcare are:

  • Impacts of change need to be assessed (i.e., impact assessment)
  • People will be resistant to change; it’s human nature
  • You need to identify and address resistance to change
  • It’s important to express WHY there is a need for change and the value
  • Getting leaders and change champions to support you is important
  • You’re basically changing old habits, and then reinforcing the “new way” as new habits
  • Organization readiness assessments, planning, and communication are all vital
  • Organizations can’t change unless the people inside them change


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Change Models in Healthcare

Here is a brief overview of the more popular change management models in healthcare as well as other industries.

The Prosci ADKAR Model

The Prosci ADKAR model that can be used for change management strategies in healthcare is one of the most popular because it’s based on the stages people need to traverse to make it through a change successfully.

When explaining how to implement change in healthcare using the ADKAR model, there are two main pieces:

  • The 5 ADKAR stages
  • A 3-phase process

The ADKAR stages people go through used for change management strategies in healthcare are:

  • Awareness of the change
  • Desire to support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability to adopt the skills/behaviors needed
  • Reinforcement of the change

The 3-phase process is quite detailed, and it provides the steps to implement change in healthcare or another industry. The overview of the main phases of ADKAR are:

  • Preparing for change
  • Managing change
  • Reinforcing change

The benefits of this change model in healthcare are:

  • It offers easy-to-understand steps
  • It uses simple language
  • It’s focused on driving individual change from the bottom up

The Kurt Lewin Change Model

Another well-known model for leading change in healthcare is the Kurt Lewin Change Model. This model’s simplicity is one of the reasons it’s used for implementing culture change in healthcare and as a guide to sustaining it.

This is a 3-stage model that helps to answer how to sustain change in healthcare because that’s one of the stages. The Lewin model’s stages are:

  • Unfreeze (addressing why current behaviors need to change)
  • Change (going through the training process for change)
  • Freeze (sustaining those new behaviors as the new “habit”)

Using this model for leading change in health and social care also involves Lewin’s Force Field Analysis. This is a method of identifying things that are restraining forces for change and those that are driving forces of change in healthcare.

The benefits of using this model of change management in healthcare organizations are:

  • It’s one of the most comprehensive and easy to follow
  • It’s based on studies of human psychology
  • It’s a bottom-up approach, focused on people’s behaviors

The John Kotter 8-Step Change Model

Another model that helps with managing change in healthcare is John Kotter’s 8-Step Model. Where the other two change models in healthcare mentioned above are bottom-up approaches, this one takes a more top-down approach.

It focuses on the need for urgency and momentum for driving and sustaining change in healthcare. It also emphasizes the need for a team of leaders and an “army” of supporters to help explain to employees, “Why is change management important in healthcare?” as it pertains to your project.

The 8-steps of Kotter’s model are:

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Build a guiding coalition
  • Form a strategic vision and initiatives
  • Enlist a volunteer army
  • Enable action by removing barriers
  • Generate short-term wins
  • Sustain acceleration
  • Institute change

The advantages of using Kotter’s model for implementing culture change in healthcare are:

  • It’s designed to ensure the “foot stays on the gas pedal” throughout a change project
  • The steps are comprehensive and easy to follow
  • It incorporates the concept that people should “want to” change, not feel like they “have to” change

Bridge’s Transition Change Model

Bridge’s Transition Model for change is very reminiscent of the Lewin model. Both have three stages that describe the general process of change. Bridge’s model is a bit more descriptive as far as what people are feeling or going through during a change process.

When you’re evaluating change in healthcare, understanding what stakeholders (doctors, nurses, lab technicians, other staff, patients, etc.) are going through is key. Those emotions need to be addressed successfully to transition people through the change.

Bridges three stages are:

  • Ending, losing, and letting go
  • The neutral zone
  • The new beginning

This is one of the change management models in healthcare that is totally focused on the people that are going through the change. In each stage, it emphasizes the different feelings that people may experience and how to address them.

The benefits of using the Bridge’s transition model for changes in healthcare are:

  • It addresses the emotions involved with change
  • It’s comprehensive and easy to follow
  • It’s a bottom-up, people-oriented approach

McKinsey 7S Framework

Another tool used to facilitate change management in healthcare is the McKinsey 7S Framework. This differs from the other strategies for implementing change in health care in that it doesn’t give you a step-by-step, but rather helps you focus on seven key areas of your organization.

The point is that all these areas are equally important and should be harmonized with each other. When you’re going through change management healthcare projects, the McKinsey 7S model helps you identify and understand the impacts and keep your organization in alignment.

The 7S’s in McKinsey’s model are:

  • Structure (your organizational hierarchy)
  • Strategy (how to plan to drive change forward)
  • Systems (physical tools and workflows)
  • Shared Values (culture, belief system)
  • Staff (those being impacted by change)
  • Style (personal managerial or working styles)
  • Skills (current and future skills needed

The McKinsey framework can be used alongside another model for implementing change in healthcare organizations, so you have more detailed steps along with an overall goal to keep everything balanced.

The benefits of using this framework for facilitating change in health and social care are:

  • It encompasses 7 key organizational areas
  • It’s designed to maintain balance after the changes in health care processes
  • It’s one of the change management theories in healthcare that works nicely alongside another


►► Change Impacts Assessment Toolkit ◄◄


How Do You Manage Change in a Healthcare Organization? (Planning)

In these next two sections, we’ll discuss managing change in health care, meaning the planning, assessment, and similar activities, and how to facilitate change in healthcare, which deals with the people side of things.

When it comes to the first steps of how to implement change in healthcare, it all starts with information gathering, planning, and strategizing. Doing this part right will give you a roadmap with steps to implement change in healthcare at your organization.

What Are Some Strategies When Handling Change Management on a Health Care project?

The following are some of the tools you’ll use for leading change in health and social care projects.

Information Gathering

The information-gathering stage is where you’ll do a variety of assessments. These can include things like looking at recent changes in healthcare to see where your organization needs to make changes to keep up.

Once you’ve identified a change program that you plan to undertake, here are some of the activities you would do in this information-gathering stage.

  • Readiness Assessment: You need to understand your organization’s readiness for implementing culture change in healthcare to know what you’ll need to include in your plan.
  • Impact Assessment: An impact assessment gives you a method for evaluating change in healthcare and its impact on your stakeholders, so you know things like how much training needs to be done.
  • Project Assessment: An important part of change management strategies in healthcare is taking time to do a project assessment, which includes things like the problem the change is solving, benefits of the change, and milestones for the project.
  • Stakeholder Analysis: To address the question, “Why is change management important in healthcare?” when it comes to your organization, you need to identify everyone that is being impacted by the change, i.e., your stakeholders.

Planning & Strategizing

Planning changes in healthcare and coming up with strategies for implementing change in healthcare go hand-in-hand. Your strategy will be shaped by the information gathering you’ve done, and your planning will be directed by your strategy.

You may want to use a helpful change management in healthcare PPT, so you’re not starting from scratch. There are plenty of helpful change management tools out there, both paid and free, including plenty right here at AGS.

The planning and strategizing part of your leading change in healthcare projects will include some of the following activities.

  • Communication Planning: Throughout the change project, you’ll need to keep communicating the main messages of, “What is change in healthcare for your facility?”, What’s in it for your stakeholders?“, among other things. You’ll also need to plan out your communications for trainings, meetings, and other activities.
  • Leadership Coaching Plan: Leadership can help you stress the importance of change in healthcare for your facility. For them to do that effectively, you should have a leadership coaching plan.
  • Organizing a Change Champions Network: Change champions are allies throughout the organization who can help with driving and sustaining change in healthcare at the “ground level.”
  • Training Plan: Once you’ve done your impact assessment during information gathering, you’ll know how much training users will need and can create a training plan accordingly as one of the driving forces of change in healthcare for your facility.
  • Resistance Management Plan: Resistance to change is all part of the change process, and how well it is managed will often dictate whether change management in healthcare organizations succeeds or fails.


►► Change Readiness Templates & Toolkit ◄◄


How Do You Facilitate Change in Healthcare? (People)

Planning is one side of the coin and knowing how to properly guide people through all your change planning activities is the other.

Change management strategies in healthcare and change models in healthcare often focus on the people side of change above all else. This is because an important factor in how an organization changes successfully and how to sustain change in healthcare has to do with the people.

If the people impacted by the changes in healthcare at your facility aren’t properly trained or don’t understand the importance of change in healthcare and how it specifically benefits them, your project could fall short of expectations.

You also have to factor in that you’ll be communicating drivers for change in healthcare to different audiences. The change may not impact them all in the same way, so you’ll need to adjust your planning and strategy accordingly.

change management in healthcare

Managing Change in Healthcare

Examples of Organizational Change in Healthcare

Let’s look at an example of how important understanding the people side of change is.

Say that you have a change that’s going to impact the backend of how patient records are handled by changing the software tool that is used. This change will only minimally impact doctors and nurse practitioners who will gather notes in the same way. It will, however, greatly impact administration and nursing staff.

In this scenario of leading change in healthcare, you would expect less resistance from those less impacted and more resistance for those that will be significantly impacted by the change.

If you only focused your leadership and change champions recruitment efforts on the part of the staff less impacted, then when they try to explain how great changes in healthcare are, the most impacted folks will be less likely to respond positively because you haven’t included “their people” in your change champion group.

On the other hand, if you made sure that your change champions team was reflective of ALL the groups, especially those highly impacted, then when they respond to, “Why is change important in healthcare at our facility?” the administrative and nursing staff would be more likely to be positive.

What Is Change in Health Care? | The “People” Side

When evaluating change in healthcare, having an understanding of human behavior is a big plus. In this case, the Lewin and Bridges models we discussed can help because they go beyond the question, “Why is change management important in healthcare?” and zero in on user emotions and behavior.

Change management in healthcare organizations is only successful if you pay attention to user emotions and behaviors so you can address concerns and fears and help people get excited about the change and what it will mean for them.

Here are several tips for managing change in healthcare from the “people” side of the change.

  • Take Time to Understand Group Dynamics: Some groups within your hospital or healthcare facility may function as “all for one and one for all,” while others may be more competitive in nature. Understanding group culture and dynamics is important to good change management in healthcare.
  • Be Proactive About Potential Resistance: If you wait for resistance and negative feelings about the change to bubble up, it can take longer to mitigate it. Using a resistance management toolkit can help you be proactive and address resistance before it derails your change management healthcare efforts.
  • Address the WIIFM (What’s in it for Me?): Managing change in healthcare is more successful if your stakeholders are onboard, and they’re much more likely to support the change if they know what’s in it for them (i.e., how does it benefit them?).
  • Listen to Concerns: People like to feel heard, so listening to questions, fears, and resistance about your organizational change in healthcare can help you learn, adjust, and address concerns so you can move the project forward.
  • Communicate Frequently & Be Transparent: Don’t leave stakeholders in the dark about your strategies for implementing change in healthcare in your facility. Transparent communication goes a long way toward understanding and acceptance.
  • Don’t Rush Through Training: No matter what your timeline for your change management healthcare project, be sure to leave plenty of time for people to become familiar with the new processes and practice them, so they can feel completely secure once your go-live date arrives.
  • Reward Milestones & Celebrate Success: Managing change in healthcare on a people level means giving them wins along the way and showing appreciation. Be sure to include milestones with small wins in your strategies for implementing change in healthcare at your organization.
  • Sustain Change by Sticking Around: Wondering how to sustain change in healthcare? Your change management in healthcare activities aren’t finished after the change happens. It’s important to be there for users as a resource for a while after the change.

Why is Leading Change in Health Care Organizations Mandatory?

As many as 70% of change projects fail to achieve the desired results. Managing change in healthcare isn’t a “slam dunk,” it’s a complex transition, involving multiple stakeholders, as well as tools, processes, and behaviors.

Why do changes in healthcare need to be led thoughtfully and with a solid change management foundation? Because it gives you a much better chance of successfully transitioning your organization and people to the new way of doing things.

Using a change model in healthcare change planning and best change management practices give you the tools you need to understand all the facets of change. This makes implementing change in healthcare organizations much less daunting.

Stakes are high when it comes to implementing changes in healthcare organizations, which is why using change management techniques is a must.


►► Change Management Toolkit | All You Need ◄◄


Conclusion: Best Change Management in Healthcare | Models, Planning, People

While the foundations of change management are the same, no matter which industry is going through a change, changes in healthcare a particularly complex because of how many different people can be impacted.

Changes in healthcare procedures, technology, or processes can impact doctors, nurses, patients, administrators, laboratory personnel, billing professionals, and many others that work in or interact with a healthcare facility.

Other factors impacting change management healthcare facilities go through are the regulatory requirements in the industry with HIPAA, and the many different entities healthcare facilities work with (insurance companies, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.).

Change is nearly always happening in the healthcare industry for one reason or another, which makes change management in healthcare so important. If you have the roadmap and tools to guide people through change, you have a much better chance at meeting or exceeding your expected results.

There are multiple change models in healthcare to use as a guide. You can even use more than one for an even more detailed strategy for facilitating change in health and social care.

For example, you might choose to use the McKinsey 7S model as an outline of which areas of your organization need to remain in balance and use the ADKAR model for your step-by-step guide for managing change in healthcare.

We hope this guide for change management in healthcare was helpful in giving you an overview of why change management is so important when it comes to changes in healthcare, as well as illustrating how to successfully implement and sustain change.


Authors: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Lead) and Francesca Crolley (AGS Lead Writer)
Content on Airiodion Global Services (AGS)'s Airiodion.com website is copyrighted. If you have questions, comments, or tips about this Airiodion Global Services content, please contact Airiodion Global Services (AGS) today.
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