When provider organizations decide to implement a new information system, they can face pushback from those using the system being replaced. Resistance to change and confusion on why the new system is needed are common reactions; in short, there is a culture shock, says Susan Eilman, senior healthcare consultant at Hayes Management Consulting. She offers eight ideas for softening the blow and preparing the organization for change.
1. Emphasize communication
Top management must communicate the vision for the project and the future of the organization. Communicating the change that will occur and the reasons for it will engage employees and help them understand the necessity of the project. Hold meetings with the entire organization or have top management attend departmental meetings. This encourages interaction and reinforces clear communication.
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2. Highlight future outcomes
Establishing common goals related to the completion of the project will encourage staff to work toward the vision. This will help staff focus on outcomes instead of the actual change, encouraging less resistance. Focus on progress by tracking metrics and establishing organizational, departmental and individual goals. Encourage accountability to the goals to foster ownership of the change, which can dramatically improve the perspective of the project.
3. Re-examine workflows
Because no one can assume a new system will be able to handle everything the legacy system handled, leadership should create opportunities to discuss all aspects of workflows before building workflows in the new system. A seemingly small but surprisingly vital part of a systems change is having the departmental managers understand and be able to communicate changes in workflows, both in the legacy and new system. Preparedness to discuss all avenues of the departmental workflows, question how specific details will work, and the ability to explain details will contribute to good results.
4. Look at organization chart and resources
Looking more toward the internal maintenance of implementations, some changes may be necessary in the organizational resource chart. Because implementing a new system often requires changes in staff workloads, you may need to evaluate if certain positions need to be tweaked or become obsolete because of the capabilities of the new system. For instance, a new electronic health record now sends charges through to the practice management system, eliminating the bulk of the work of charge entry staff. But new staff members are needed to review charge edits. So, charge entry staff now may be called charge review staff on the organizational chart.
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5. Emphasize training
Include the training department in the scope of the project—doing so eliminates all sorts of headaches down the road. Thoroughly planning the training phase enable training staff to better educate and assist users. It also brings to light the importance of tailoring the training to job-specific workflows instead of just focusing on whole-system training. Get trainers well-versed in the new system because they will get tough questions from users.
6. Fully test the new system
Now that staff has been trained and understands changes in their workflows and how it will affect daily routines, it’s time to put the new system to the test. Identify “super users” who are confident with the system, and are hard workers and team players. Trainers and super users can easily identify issues with workflows when entering data and understand when the system is not functioning appropriately for each task. They can smooth complications coming from other staff so that when go-live comes, most of the kinks have been worked out.
7. Establish policies and procedures
As workflows, protocols and system changes are established, policy and procedures should be created and finalized simultaneously. Procedures provide clear guidance and leadership needs to ensure there is no ambiguity in the organization’s policies. Forming change management committees ensures policies and procedures are created with approval for the entire organization, also limiting staff from making changes without getting approval from the organization as a whole.
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8. Encourage feedback
Management should provide feedback during and after a system implementation. Detailing successes and areas for improvement throughout the project are opportunities to ensure that the go-live is as smooth and successful as possible. Additionally, feedback doesn’t have to stop at go-live. Leadership should use this momentum and continue to provide and receive any feedback after the project is complete.