We’ve heard it time and again—change is the only constant in life. And yet, it never ceases to take us by surprise. We’re creatures of habit, and for most of us, change doesn’t come easy. It often takes a major shakeup—say, a global pandemic—to remind us that the status quo can’t go on forever, especially when it comes to running a business in a fast-shifting market.
COVID-19 has inspired large-scale change—particularly in the healthcare industry, where regulations and best practices (including clinical guidelines) have been in constant flux. However, pandemic or not, there will always be new CMS regulations—or new treatment innovations, billing guidelines, competitors, or revenue threats—waiting around the corner. To find long-term success (and avoid short-term pitfalls), businesses must be able to adapt to these changes. So, to help you successfully manage change in your practice, we’ve compiled the following pro tips.
1. Determine your “why.”
Half the battle of implementing a change in your practice is understanding the purpose of the change itself. If you can’t clearly articulate the reason why the change must occur, then that’s a signal that it may not be necessary after all. If you can clearly define your “why,” it will help guide you toward the right approach and earn stakeholder buy-in. Whether the change affects your team or your patients—or both—a strong “why” will encourage them to get them on board with it (and potentially even become advocates for the change).
2. Engage your team during the transition.
Businesses perform better when employees tackle organizational changes together. By communicating early, often, and transparently, you’ll help your team feel as though they play a critical role in ensuring the change’s success. This will encourage them to see the process through.
The manner in which you communicate and engage with your team will differ depending on the size of your practice. In smaller clinics, the best approach is to facilitate team discussions about changes in your organization. With fewer participants, conversations will flow more openly and easily.
In larger organizations—especially multi-clinic practices—your best bet is to establish what John Kotter, an award-winning business and management thought leader, refers to as a “guiding coalition.” A guiding coalition is a team of highly effective volunteers who oversee, coordinate, and communicate to the company the changes taking place. Carefully selecting the members of the coalition is essential to its success. When forming this group, Kotter suggests:
- Building a team of individuals with diverse skills, experiences, perspectives, and networks;
- Avoiding including naysayers, unfocused individuals, and people with hidden agendas; and
- Loading the team with free thinkers who can help spark creativity and innovation in others.
3. Develop an inspiring action plan.
Once you’ve rallied the troops, it’s time to develop a clear plan of action that explains how the organization will execute this change over time. This is critical to change management success, because it gives stakeholders time to understand what’s happening and when—and how to prepare for it.
According to a recent study by BMC Health Services Research, “Changes that were clearly communicated to allow for preparation increased the chances for successful changes.” What’s more, one of the nurses interviewed for the study stated that establishing a shared plan was the most important part of implementing change. So, get your team involved in creating this roadmap. They’ll be more likely to buy into the process knowing they contributed to it.
When creating your plan, also keep in mind that it should motivate both the head and the heart. Use data and analytics to appeal to the rational mind, and tie in your core values and clinic mission to appeal on an emotional level.
4. Remove barriers that hinder change.
Another key to successfully implementing a strategic vision is eliminating obstacles, whether perceived or actual. These may include inefficient processes, outdated technology, or even ingrained mindsets—all of which can stymie your ability to implement a plan with real and lasting impact.
The pandemic has presented our industry with an ideal opportunity to:
- pinpoint what’s not working in the clinic, and
- explore solutions that may be sitting on the back burner.
For example, a number of clinics have adopted new technology to help them ramp up patient volumes post-lockdown. But, it’s not uncommon to have a few therapists on the team who are reluctant to embrace new software.
To get them on board with this sort of change, you must identify their personal blockers (e.g., do they struggle to learn new software?). Once you identify your team’s blockers, you can help them overcome them by discussing the benefits of the change (i.e., going back to the “why”) and offering accommodations when reasonable (e.g., planning software training classes).
5. Celebrate short-term wins.
Positive momentum can be tough to maintain when a clinic-wide change stretches over a long timeframe or is extensive in nature. To keep the positive momentum going, create smaller, more palatable milestones and celebrate each incremental win.
According to Kotter, “Wins are the molecules of results. They must be collected, categorized, and communicated—early and often—to track progress and energize your [team] to drive change.” Celebrating small wins validates the efforts you’ve put toward accomplishing your overarching goal.
What will your wins be? That’s up to you to decide. However, we recommend making your mini-goals:
- Relevant to the change you’re making;
- Meaningful to your team; and
- Visible, tangible, and repeatable, so that they can scale across your organization as you continue to build momentum.
6. Track and measure your progress.
On the topic of wins, it’s mighty hard to identify them if you’re not properly tracking and measuring your progress as you implement change in your clinic. It’s important to establish your key performance indicators (KPIs)—that is, the quantifiable measurements you’ll use to gauge your overall performance—fresh out the gate. That way, you can continually quantify progress, identify wins, and share them with your entire team.
Building off the example in pro tip number four, here are some KPIs you could track when implementing a new patient marketing software:
- Overall patient satisfaction,
- Number of new patient reviews (which help augment your clinic’s online presence),
- Patient referrals and retention rate,
- Patient dropout rate, and/or
- New patients acquired.
7. Check in regularly.
Implementing significant change isn’t a one-and-done process. Rather, it has a lifecycle—one that will continue to evolve in step with external forces. That’s why it’s critical to keep a finger on the pulse of the market, as you may have to revise your milestones—or in some cases, create a new overarching goal. Additionally, solicit feedback from your team early and often to learn how the changes in your organization are affecting them. This feedback will help you gain a deeper understanding of what’s working well—and what needs improvement. If you want to gather cross-organizational feedback from all stakeholders, then consider conducting focus groups or distributing surveys.
To find long-term success in any industry, business leaders must be able to effectively respond to events beyond their control—a hard lesson learned this year. And in the ever-changing healthcare world, the more successfully providers embrace change, the more successfully they will boost efficiency, address new challenges, and provide maximum value to their patients.
Have more questions on how to manage change in your practice? Let us know below, and we’ll help get you on the right track.