By Josh Weiner, CEO, Solutionreach
It’s 2020. A new year and new decade have arrived and they’re ushering in a greater desire for change—traditionally a thing many hospitals and health systems fear rather than embrace. The truth of the matter is, the technology needed to address many of the industry’s challenges (surprise billing, physician burnout, etc.) already exists in large measure. These advancements come with the potential to drive down costs and improve the patient experience. Here is just a very quick snapshot of the benefits of widely available technology for healthcare:
- Electronic benefits verification costs around 94 percent less than traditional measures—a savings of over $6.00 per patient.
- An online intake process eliminates costs for 60 percent of organizations.
- Automated appointment reminders reduce no-show rates by 35 percent.
It’s no wonder a recent report found that 70 percent of healthcare leaders plan to adopt new technology such as automated reminder systems, check-in technologies, telehealth, digital payment options, and data analytics to improve patient engagement and organizational efficiency. But change, even short-term change, is notoriously difficult in the healthcare industry. Many attempts at implementing change simply fail from the start. The best antidote?
Strong change management initiatives.
Research shows that a good change management strategy can help organizations avoid things such as poor productivity, loss of employees, high-stress levels, and a negative impact on patients during a change. Effective change management processes result in a faster speed of adoption, higher organizational utilization, and better proficiency for employees. It also improves the likelihood that a project stays on schedule and budget.
When implementing a change management process, there are literally thousands of books, courses, and experts to guide you. These are just a few insider lessons learned by hospitals and healthcare experts after years of trial and error:
Implementing change from the top down doesn’t work. One of the main reasons for failed change attempts is a non-supportive culture from within the organization. When an organization tries to impose change from the administrative level, resistance (both active and passive) inevitably follows. Employee resentment leads to low engagement levels. Involving as many people as possible from the first steps of the process and clearly communicating the “why” behind a change can alleviate this problem.
The proper combination of tools and vision is required for success. Not every emerging technology or latest trend needs to be implemented by every healthcare organization. How do you know which you need? Analyze which tools align with the unique purpose and goals of your organization. This means that each healthcare organization—from the smallest single practitioner to the largest system—should have a vision that is clearly communicated and lived across teams. This vision should be woven throughout everything you do—including the tools you choose to use. The latest technological “thing” may not apply to your mission at all. Implementing such a tool is unlikely to be easily adopted by staff. Likewise, simply sharing your vision with employees without ever adding the tools they need to apply said vision is fruitless as well. It is the combination of a clear vision and the tools to drive that vision that brings ultimate success.
Don’t fall into the trap of appeasing yourself. When tracking any change, it is easy to lie to yourself about the improvements it is bringing. Unfortunately, lying to yourself doesn’t help anyone. It’s important to face the facts—no matter what they say. If you are touting a one percent improvement over last year, for example, and that year was a terrible year, your performance was still poor. It is important to measure your progress against industry standards or superior performance. Keeping a balanced—and honest—set of standards to track your progress is a crucial part of any change management strategy.
Remember—what works today may not work tomorrow. Sadly, nothing is ever truly “finished” in the healthcare world. Yes, meeting a goal is great and that achievement should be celebrated. However, there are variables in healthcare that are constantly shifting. The tools you used to achieve your original goal may not work forever. Many healthcare leaders find that, as their focus shifts to new initiatives, the areas they thought were “fixed” start to slip. To avoid this common problem, ongoing reporting and tracking of all measures should continue, even after hitting your target.
Handling change is one of the most difficult tasks a healthcare organization might face. But since change is not going away anytime soon, it is imperative that solid change management processes find their way into the heart of every healthcare group. Patient health, organizational reputations, and billions of dollars are at stake. So, regardless of what the change initiative is, now is the time to tackle it the right way.
About The Author
Josh Weiner is the CEO of Solutionreach. He joined Solutionreach from Summit Partners, a leading global growth equity firm. Through his work with Summit Partners, Josh served on the Solutionreach board of directors for three years. Prior to Summit Partners, he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company. Josh is a graduate of Stanford University and resides in Salt Lake City with his wife, daughter, and golden retriever Willow (who often makes cameos at the Solutionreach office). Josh and his family spend as much time as possible exploring the natural wonders of Utah's mountains and deserts. Connect with him on LinkedIn @joshfweiner.