By Bill Ho
Technology advances have provided us with amazing benefits, especially in healthcare. From better illness diagnoses to fighting diseases to extending our life expectancies and quality of life, technology has made our lives better. Even more specifically, back office advancements can help reduce wait times for patients, provide better and more secure platforms for doctor and patient communications, and increase patient satisfaction with their healthcare experience. However, these advancements can be slow to adopt. So how can hospitals that are looking to improve patient care through technology achieve the desired outcome more quickly?
Like two sides of a coin, introducing anything new often has two areas of resistance. Even if flawed, people will have comfort and trust in the current process or system, and fear that something new will either not work well, or worse– put patients at risk. The Hippocratic Oath’s “do no harm” comes to mind and is one of the driving forces behind the caution that is ingrained in the culture.
But whether quickly or slowly, change happens. The important thing is to ensure changes are positive and impacts are minimized along the way. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” particularly resonates in healthcare. These reasons usually include: the current solution is reliable, it’s a known quantity, it’s well understood, it’s become a part of a routine, and it works. The trick is to assess whatever “ain’t broke” and understand if there are opportunities to optimize or re-engineer it.
Working for a company that has provided secure communication software to the healthcare industry for over 30 years, we’ve been able to significantly and positively impact patient satisfaction through our solutions. From helping plan, execute, and manage large scale technology deployments, we’ve learned a few things on how to increase the chances of success. Here are a few considerations when deploying new technologies:
First, clearly define the objective of whatever change will be implemented. Why is this being done and how will it help those directly impacted? How will this improve patient satisfaction and outcomes across the continuum of patient care? If possible, how does it align with the mission and goals of the healthcare organization? Who’s involved in the project, and who will be affected directly and indirectly by the change? The key is to be as transparent as possible.
Second, with any change management process, identify and include key stakeholders, including care providers – both clinicians and the staff that will be interacting directly or indirectly with the new system. Involving stakeholders in the process from the beginning helps with buy-in and potentially improves the final deployment, as their feedback can be valuable input to the final implementation. A clear timeline helps define milestones, set priorities, and manage expectations. Setting a framework and schedule provides a concrete understanding of when things will happen.
Third, try to roll out pilots to smaller practice areas, or migrate an existing process in phases. Introducing new features, functionality, or workflows over time can help people adapt, while running the existing system in parallel makes for a nice safety net. In addition to derisking the project, this phased approach can help build confidence in the system.
Change is hard, so it’s important to clearly define how implementing a new technology fits into the overall objectives of the organization and how it helps those who will be using it. It’s always good to be able to answer: “What’s in it for me?” While it’s often the initial reaction to changes that generate the most vocal concerns, we’re all pretty good at adapting to new things. Putting more thought throughout the process of deploying new technologies can accelerate implementation timelines while effectively managing risks.