Tech isn't holding us back from healthcare transformation. People are.
Here’s one discipline you need to get your team on board and make proposed changes stick.
Changing technology doesn’t come easily for any organization. Even mundane adjustments like replacing the office printer can result in reactions that range from excitement to confusion to outright dismay. When it comes to major business and technology shifts—especially in a sector with as much regulation, third-party integration, and range as healthcare—change is especially hard.
As healthcare leaders around the globe look to modernize and transform how they work, they’re seeking to bridge technological gaps that stand between their organization’s current state and the business transformation they envision. They wrestle with complex questions like “How will AI and access to more data change the way care is delivered?” and “How do we adopt modern technologies while maintaining privacy and security?”
Questions like these largely focus on getting better tech systems. But while tech innovations over the last 50 years (including the emergence of Electronic Health Records and telehealth) have demonstrated enormous benefit to healthcare organizations working to provide better care, technology is just a piece of the puzzle.
After all, the benefits of new technology don’t come without challenges. There is always resistance from people who will use the new systems — stressed-out financial officers, anxious employees wondering if they’ll lose their jobs to automation, and a healthy dose of “but we’ve always done it this way.”
Having a good technology plan is not enough. Leadership needs to promote curiosity and excitement about the value tech will bring. Without it, the organization faces resistance to change that leads to negative impacts on both the employees’ experience and the organization’s ability to successfully meet customer needs. The key is getting your people onboard in an intentional people strategy for digital modernization.
A sound and intentional people strategy answers questions like:
How do leaders of successful healthcare innovations achieve their intended digital modernization outcomes?
How can technology be adopted at a faster rate and with less organizational churn to improve how services and care are delivered?
How can digital modernization initiatives enable an employee experience that is positive, fulfilling and further connects employees to the purpose and mission they seek?
Finding the answers to all those questions begins with a team that specializes in Organizational Effectiveness.
Organizational Effectiveness: 3 Elements for Smooth Digital Transformation
To introduce and scale technology effectively, a plan must include a people-focused change methodology, rich people-centered engagement, and a culture of innovation that is fueled by collaboration and trust. Basically, if we want to improve the adoption of innovative technologies that improve patient care, we need to start with the people who embody the heart of healthcare. That’s what an Organizational Effectiveness (OE) team helps businesses navigate.
To illustrate the use of OE during a major technology initiative, think of a rowing team. There are eight rowers in the boat, each pulling their weight, each chasing down the finish line. Even though they’re all in the same boat and equipped with a pair of oars, things can get disorganized. They can’t see each other. They might row out of sync. They might have different ways of thinking about how to win. They’re all working hard, doing their job, and aiming for a common goal—but without organization, their efforts are less effective. They’re just a bunch of people staying afloat. I’ve seen many organizations embarking on technology change become an organization of people just staying afloat.
They have a strong tech plan—a good sturdy boat—but they don’t have the people plan to get them where they’re headed. An OE team becomes the boat’s coxswain, using an intentional approach to help all the rowers pull together, navigate the boat around obstacles, and stay on course. Working in an organized, concerted effort, the team’s power, speed, and efficiency are off the charts. Together, they can win.
An OE team helps healthcare leaders build their capabilities in managing complex changes, supports programs and initiatives so teams function more effectively, and assists in defining and optimizing how changes will impact individual team members and the organizational culture.
After all, effective change doesn’t just happen. Successful digital transformation hinges on an organization’s ability to effectively design, plan, and implement change in a way that causes minimal disruption to people and operations while accelerating desired business results. Supporting business leaders as they navigate complex technology changes within their organizations involves three focus areas: change execution, strategic communications and engagement and culture and agility. Here’s how to apply them.
1. Change Execution
A structured and methodical approach to change is a critical first step. OE practitioners begin by learning about the organization, its people, its program needs, and the cultural nuances that make the org unique. The team helps identify what is changing, and how those changes will impact the people, the teams, and the culture therein. Basically: Where is the org starting? What’s the end vision?
What has to move, grow, stop, or continue in order to successfully reach that vision? For example, say a hospital wants to implement a new electronic medical records (EMR) system. No matter which EMR system they choose, there is a wide range of people factors to consider: number of staff, leadership style, shared vision, current processes, oversight systems, and more.
Many organizations spend time and money on the technology, but neglect to formulate a standard set of tools, templates, and processes that build effective business practices, governance, design, and implementation processes—all of which are vital to adoption. A focus on how this team of people comes together to get this work done is key to successful change execution.
2. Strategic Communications & Engagement
We often hear from employees that they don’t have a clear understanding of why things are changing or, more critically, what impact the changes will have on them. To encourage engagement with and adoption of technical solutions, organizations need to tell a compelling story of change.
People connect to stories. Imagine the power of telling the real stories of rural patients who are able to get a medical condition diagnosed and treated through virtual care with a doctor, without the stresses of six-hour drives and prohibitively expensive hotel stays. Yes, adopting that technology takes works on the back end, but the effect on patient care and community health—everyone’s first priority—is exponential.
When those stories of how technology helps in real-world scenarios are shared, employees become invested in digital modernization outcomes. An OE team helps leaders set up a creative and compelling way to communicate that story for a specific audience, using all kinds of media—print, film, speaker series, podcasts, and more. Doing so will connect people to the universal vision and accelerate the whole team toward the end goal.
3. Culture and Change Agility
According to a Harvard Business Review study on culture, culture consists of observable patterns of behavior, mindset, and engagement in organizations. Basically, it’s how organizations do things. Through any transformation, change succeeds when people understand, buy in, implement, and master it. It also succeeds when people feel they have the tool and support to make the necessary changes.
I hear often that organizations work hard to implement new tech, but they can’t realize the success. In my experience, this happens when the culture of the organization doesn’t support the change. Healthcare innovation has historically been methodical and iterative, prioritizing caution over velocity. Now, there’s a vast influx of healthcare startups seeking to disrupt the industry. Startups rely on cultures that value an innovative, iterative, change-ready mindset that leads to business success—and cultures with a wiliness to embrace change, and build change agility into their cultures, hold a competitive advantage. Better care comes from healthcare organizations that have change in their DNA. OE professionals help leaders embrace and integrate that hunger for innovation, as well as prioritize change agility. Digital transformation programs that focus on building change agility realize the benefits of their technology strategies faster, while building this capability permanently in their organization for future innovation.
Across the healthcare sector, the commitment to providing state-of-the-art care is obvious. The types of digital transformations helping organizations deliver better healthcare are inspiring—and elucidating. The tech innovations exist. They’re ready to implement. The question remains, from org to org: Are the people ready to implement?
The greatest predictor of success in a workplace change project is a team that’s highly engaged and willing to adopt the changes. Organizational buy-in is a must. As more healthcare companies strive to overcome resistance to change by using a structured change methodology, communication and storytelling, and collaboration and trust, Organizational Effectiveness initiatives will prove a key part of transformation in the healthcare sector.
Melanie Roberson Director, Organizational Effectiveness Human Impact Studio Launch Consulting