How to manage change in a healthcare organisation

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If one thing is certain in the healthcare industry, it’s change. With continually shifting regulations, rapid developments in technology, as well as fluctuating disease patterns and an ageing population, healthcare organisations must change and adapt.
Change is not only essential for enhancing healthcare delivery to patients, but also in improving employee wellbeing. When successfully implemented, change can have a positive impact on productivity and employee well being. This can include reduced work-related stress and sickness absence, better mental health and improved work performance and motivation.

However, dealing with change can be a huge challenge for any organisation and healthcare is no exception. Whether it's new technology or changing systems and processes, it can be hard to adapt - for both organisations and the healthcare staff that work in them - especially when that change is rapid and/or impacts something fundamental in how people see themselves or their role. This can create resistance and stress that stops planned changes being adopted effectively.

One of the components of successful change management is cultivating a culture of change so that people welcome it and see it as a benefit. Let’s take a closer look at four elements that help to create this culture of change.

How to manage change in a healthcare organisation

1. Be prepared

While unexpected changes can arise, most change management programmes are planned. Part of that plan should be time at the beginning to lay the groundwork.

It's important to prepare your staff for change and give them enough time to accept what is going to happen. Whether it's IT innovation, changing regulations or shifts in patient behaviour patterns, it’s essential that those on the receiving end of these changes have a comprehensive awareness of what is changing and why prior to initiating the change.

Creating a core set of resources can help here as this provides a single point of truth for what's planned, which people can draw from throughout the change programme. Also preparing your senior team to champion the changes is critical so that there is a clear single message about what’s going to happen and why.

If people feel like the change has been thought through and they have had time to prepare for it, then it's much easier to accept.

2. Focus on the value

For individuals to feel prepared to implement change, they need to understand the why - the value of the change being implemented.

If you can clearly communicate the goals, expected outcomes, needs and benefits of the change, people will be far more willing to understand why it is necessary. There are many ways to communicate planned changes including whole company or department meetings, smaller group roundtables and online forums. The important thing is to allow for discussion and to provoke questions so that you can provide clarification to concerns.

With clear information on the change and transparency about the motivation behind it, individuals, whether internal teams or stakeholders, are more likely to feel positive towards it.

3. Early involvement

Similarly involving individuals early in the process and winning upfront buy-in is crucial in successful change management programmes. One of the key contributors to stress in the workplace is the feeling that we don’t have control over our working day. Giving some of that control back through early involvement in what is being changed can have a profound effect on the successful adoption of new healthcare technology, systems and processes.

Once the values and principles have been defined and communicated by the senior team, then try to get early involvement by the people and/or teams most affected by the change to define the detail. This builds out change from the ground up which generally leads to more effective adoption than imposing it from the top down. Drawing on individuals’ purposes and strengths, as well as collaborative efforts in overcoming problems goes a long way to fostering a positive attitude to change.

With enough time to mentally prepare for change, clear communication on the value of that change and giving people control over the details early on, then you are starting to develop a change management programme that has widespread buy-in. Teams feel that they are working together for a long term benefit, solving problems and defining workable solutions.

4. Analysis and improvement

Change management is a process, it's not a single event.

Once changes are put in place, then systematic analysis and improvement is an essential next step. This allows an organisation to come full circle and see change as part of a culture of continual improvement.

As part of a change management programme it's important to put in measures that allow everyone to see progress and reflect on whether the outcomes were in line with the original plan. Clear measures with analysis and reporting on results will help you to decide whether the change was successfully executed and what could be improved.

For example as part of the preparation phase you could conduct a SWOT analysis, analysing strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the planned changes. Where possible you can put measures against these. Then you can revisit this at regular intervals to see what’s changed and areas for improvement.

A system to monitor and evaluate change, backed by numbers and evidence, helps to build a culture where teams are actively considering what can be improved. They are not only part of the change but they are then driving it.

Implementing new technology and automation can create resistance and stress. By carefully considering how you will manage the change you improve the chances of effective implementation of new systems. The analysis tools within the OX platform provide the data that can drive continuous improvement to embed change. Get in touch today to find out how OX can help to transform your clinic or practice.

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