Change makes transformation possible – but are you ready?

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July 31, 2012

 
By Janine Savage, RN, RAC-CT, CHC
Healthcare Analytics Consultant, VCPI

As I’ve watched the first few days of the 2012 Olympic Games, I’ve been struck by the changes that have taken place over the years. From aerodynamic uniforms to real-time internet streaming of events, technology innovations have radically changed the Olympic experience for athletes, judges and spectators. Records are consistently broken as athletes become faster and stronger – made possible by technology advancements in their training. These changes have “transformed” the Olympics.

Similarly, technology innovation is a driving force for transformation in healthcare. “Clinical transformation” is not a new concept, but perhaps a new “buzzword” for what’s always happened in healthcare as people, processes and technologies change, making improvements possible. To illustrate this, just Google images of “surgery in 1890s,” “maternity ward in 1940s,” or “nursing home in 1970s.”

As expectations for improved healthcare outcomes increase, providers will be expected to use technology to further transform their organizations and the care they deliver.

Technology has the power to help providers in ways that were never before possible – but in order to leverage that power, significant change must take place. From evidence based practice to electronic medical record (EMR) implementation to work flow changes, effective change management is foundational.

Charles Darwin is often credited with quotes about change – that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most adaptable to change…that in the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.

I don’t think these observations are revelations; we all acknowledge the importance of change as a concept. And yet, specific to health information technology, or HIT, many organizations struggle to operationalize the changes necessary to be successful. Perhaps the single most important thing an organization can do to prepare for HIT implementation is to strive to create a culture that expects and embraces change, rather than fears it.

Here are a few things you can do to make your organization “change-ready” for HIT:

  1. Assess the prevailing attitude toward change throughout the organization and identify any prevalent fear of change.
  2. Assess the prevailing attitudes and beliefs about HIT and the level of fear of technology throughout the organization using objective methods, such as a web-based survey for all levels of leadership and staff.
  3. Implement an organizational commitment and strategy for managing the significant changes associated with HIT adoption and begin the culture change required for successful adoption.
  4. Prepare for encountering fear and resistance – and even sabotage – and determine how you will respond to it. Identify and support change agents.
  5. Embrace the adoption of other technologies as a foundation for EMR adoption (e.g. email, instant messaging, smart phones, texting, Microsoft Office or equivalent, calendars and meeting invitations, web meetings and conferencing, collaboration software, etc.).
  6. Assess basic computer skills of users through formal methods and address any deficits prior to EMR implementation.

Just as technology has changed the nature of the Olympics, technology has the power to change the nature of healthcare and lead to better outcomes – if change is embraced.

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