Overcoming Resistance: Managing the Human Side of Change in Health IT

Guest post by Ann Richardson, communications and change management consultant, Pivot Point Consulting.

Ann Richardson
Ann Richardson

Healthcare has seen its fair share of transformation over the past two decades. The waves of change reshaping the industry include new coding sets, evolving value-based payment models and countless technology implementations, just to name a few. As healthcare pivots from tech laggard to technical innovator, those working in the field sometimes struggle to adapt.

Healthcare organizations have made big investments in electronic health records (EHRs) and other healthcare IT systems, but not without some pushback from the people tasked with using them. Clinician frustration with EHR adoption has been well documented. In our push to implement new—and badly needed—resources to bring greater efficiency to healthcare, it’s important not to overlook managing the human side of change.

Effective Communication: The Crux of Change Management

In my work managing projects as a communications and change management consultant, I’ve learned that each company has its own unique culture and way of doing things. Some organizations are adaptive while others are more change resistant. Regardless of the nature of the project—be it an EHR upgrade, revenue cycle management (RCM) software training or other initiative—an assessment of an organization’s capacity for change during the early stages of project development is crucial. By identifying changes and related impacts early on, change managers can help project teams develop an effective strategy to support employees as they move through the change process and adapt to the new way of working at their organization.

To identify potential points of friction and build a game plan for plugging any readiness gaps, remember to include the people tasked with managing the human side of change (communication, change management and training managers) along with technical and operational resources at every stage of the planning and execution process. These folks can work closely with project teams to develop effective communication, change management and training plans designed to build awareness, reduce resistance, increase adoption and pave the way for a smooth transition at go-live.

10 communication tips for a smooth go-live:

Include communications/change management managers in process design discussions. Communications and change management resources must be able to clearly articulate changes and their impacts to end-users.

Identify, analyze and document workflow and system changes, including impacts, risk level and who is impacted, so a plan for addressing potential resistance and risks can be developed.

Offer a broad array of ways employees can get information about the project. Try to appeal to different learning styles (i.e., visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary) and information consumption preferences (intranet, email, e-newsletter, bulletin board, print, video clip, events or activities).

Leverage existing communication channels already in use by the client to offer users a point of familiarity.

Create a project website so employees have a dedicated place to turn to for project details.

Consider using weekly email blasts to avoid overwhelming employees with multiple emails, i.e., “email fatigue.” Link to the project website to keep messages brief, yet provide additional detail for those that may need or want additional information.

Write messaging that is clear, concise and jargon-free. Think bullet points. Avoid large blocks of text but do provide sufficient context for users not actively involved in the project. Use a screenshot, image or diagram if it can clarify a complex message.

Spell out acronyms. Don’t assume everyone can decipher healthcare and health IT acronyms.

Get feedback from clinical and operational team members before distributing messaging aimed at other clinicians.

Meet the informational needs of your target audience(s) by asking these three questions when creating messaging:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What do I want them to do?

 

Change resistance can thwart even the best-laid implementation plans. By getting communications and change management resources involved early on in a project, healthcare organizations can better support their employees who are impacted by the transition to a new system. Dedicating time and resources to helping employees adopt new workflows and applications can go a long way in ensuring the success of your next project.

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