Michelle Mahony's picture

How Change in Healthcare Impacts Providers and Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare in the United States and around the globe is going through unprecedented changes that will fundamentally transform how care is delivered to patients. All of this is occurring against a backdrop of:

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While the future of healthcare is still in flux, all major insurers, hospitals, academic medical institutions and industry participants acknowledge that the current model is not sustainable going forward.

So, what is to be done? At Ketchum Change, we are working with a number of healthcare organizations to meet these challenges head on and help them embark on this new era of healthcare change.

Provider Opinions of Healthcare Change

Indeed, research conducted by Deloitte with 613 physicians in the United States indicates that physicians are pessimistic about the future of their profession and consider many of the healthcare changes to be a threat. We know from our own work with healthcare organizations that these issues are understandably having an impact on employee morale as they become increasingly uncertain about the future.

The sheer magnitude of this tide of change facing the industry can feel particularly overwhelming, as what may have made healthcare organizations successful in the past will not help them flourish in the future.

The Pressures of Healthcare Change on Providers

Healthcare providers are one of the main targets of change. This translates into new ways of working for paid caregivers under ever-increasing pressures, and the future can seem dim. Some changes to what is now being asked of healthcare providers include:

  • Change patient treatment and assume a different role in patient care.
  • Make personal sacrifices as part of necessary cost-cutting measures and staff reductions
  • Contain costs and provide new ways of caring for patients more efficiently
  • Continue to ensure a consistently high standard of quality and safety

All of this can have a demoralizing effect, particularly when it can seem that there is no end in sight.

What Can Be Done to Ensure Success

The changes ahead will be challenging for organizations that touch healthcare, but by taking the following steps, these challenges can be mitigated in a way that is positive and productive for everyone, especially the patient:

  1. Create a reason to believe
  2. Involve leaders and employees throughout the process
  3. Be an active and earnest listener
  4. Take the time to recognize successes along the way

Give People a Reason to Believe

This swirl of change can be overwhelming for paid caregivers and employees. Healthcare providers including paid caregivers are now being asked to change the way they treat patients and assume a different role in patient care. They are also being asked to make personal sacrifices as part of necessary cost-cutting measures and staff reductions. All of this can have a demoralizing effect, particularly when it can seem that there is no end in sight.

This is why it is crucial to paint a compelling picture, or story, around the future that inspires hope among paid caregivers and employees and gives them a reason to believe that even through challenging times, all of this change will be for the better for the organization, for their patients, and ultimately, for them.

Leaders can then rally around this story, connect it to the changes that are happening and invite caregivers and employees to be part of the path forward. Done well, this “reason to believe” will become a rallying cry for the organization and a way to unite employees to work together to reach a common and positive vision.

Empower Leaders and Employees to Drive Change

We often say that when driving change, senior leadership defines the “what” and employees “define” the how. This means that while top leaders set the vision and direction, they need to involve a broad range leaders and employees throughout the organization to participate in achieving that vision. And, when transformation is happening on a scale as it is in the healthcare sector, getting the entire organization involved becomes a true imperative.

To achieve this, leaders throughout the organization need to:

  • Clearly understand the expectations around their role as a change driver with employees
  • Be equipped with the skills, tools and information that will support them in that role
  • Be given the autonomy to execute changes in a way that makes sense for their organizations and teams at the local level (with a common endgame in mind).

This approach not only facilitates successful transformation, but is a driver of employee engagement, as change feels a whole lot better at a human level when we feel we understand it and have some control over it.

Be Authentic and Listen

I was recently talking to a senior leader in a healthcare organization about the way in which he was talking with employees about the myriad changes they were undergoing. He told me that the changes were difficult for him personally as well. He had shared his feelings openly with his team, but he had also told them that they were all in this together, engaging them in a dialogue about how they would weather through and succeed as a team.

Being honest and having an open conversation about the challenges of change, while acknowledging that those changes are necessary for the good of the organization, will build trust, something that is much needed during challenging times.

Track and Celebrate Progress

Finally, as with any long journey, it is important to:

  • Set milestones along the way and celebrate them as an organization when they are achieved
  • Tell stories about progress
  • Highlight personal and team achievements

Why is this important?

  • It helps everyone see that progress is being made
  • It demonstrates that everyone’s efforts are appreciated
  • It shows the “proof” that the changes are taking hold in a positive way, while recognizing the efforts of employees and increasing morale as a result.

The changes ahead will be challenging for organizations that touch healthcare, but by creating a reason to believe, involving leaders and employees throughout the process and taking the time to recognize successes along the way, these challenges can be mitigated in a way that is positive and productive for everyone, especially the patient.