Communication and training are keys to a smooth transition

“This is the way we’ve always done things.”

“Who has time to implement new processes into an already packed schedule?”

“This new technology seems complicated and unnecessary. What’s the payoff?”

These are common objections that practice managers and physician owners run into when making changes. Whether it’s a forced change, like using new diagnostic codes, or a change meant to benefit the practice, like implementing an EHR or other new technology, doing things differently can cause concerns and resistance from staff—unless you understand and approach change strategically. Here’s how.

Communicate early and often

Changes in health care are affecting the industry like never before, such as the push to adopt EHRs and the trend towards smaller practices merging with or being bought out by larger groups and hospitals, to name just a couple of significant shifts in recent years.

“Advocates say such efforts to evolve are a win-win for practices and consumers alike. That may be true. But it’s also giving the folks in the trenches — the clinical and clerical staff whose daily routines get disrupted — plenty of angst,” stated Physicians Practice. “Transition is not easy,” said Ken Hertz, a consultant with MGMA Health Care Consulting Group. “Whenever you have any sort of change it impacts the practice’s culture, the values and beliefs you have, and how people behave.”

Transition is not easy, but communicating openly with employees about what is happening and why can help staff accept change.

Open communication is key is to implementing change smoothly, say experts. Being transparent about changes, the reasoning behind them, and their impact builds a sense of connection with employees and makes them feel engaged in the process. “Involvement in shaping the decisions of an organization can make it easier for people to accept change with less fear and resistance,” according to the American Association for Physician Leadership.

Keeping the lines of communication open also reduces rumors and fear mongering and helps staff stay focused, according to Physicians Practice. Asking for feedback and listening to their concerns shows that management values employee contributions, and lessens the perception that a change is something being imposed upon them.

Be honest and don’t sugarcoat things, especially if it’s a change that could impact their employment or job responsibilities, such as the practice being sold.

Overcome staff resistance

While some employees will be on board with proposed changes in the practice, especially ones that solve a problem, others may resist any change. Dig deep to understand what might be behind their resistance. In another article in Physicians Practice, P.J. Cloud-Moulds wrote, “A great idea is to pull one of your hesitant-to-change staff members aside and ask them to assist you. Once they start understanding the ‘whys’ of change, they will be more likely to become your best ally of implementation.”

Try to understand why some employees may resist a change. Explain your reasoning, ask for their assistance, and show how it will benefit them.

Explain the reasoning behind the change:

  • Do you need to comply with regulatory requirements?
  • Will it help the practice be more profitable?
  • Will it benefit patients?

Highlight the benefits to staff, too:

  • Will it streamline the way they perform their day-to-day job functions?
  • Will it save them time and energy?
  • Will it improve their interactions with patients?

Ultimately, people want to know what’s in it for them. “The only way you ever get people to buy into change is to show them the benefit — not to the organization, but to the individuals themselves,” practice management consultant Judy Capko told Physicians Practice.

Training employees and leveraging ‘early adopters’

Implementing new technology can be a big challenge for practices, both for non-clinical staff and for physician partners. The key is managing the change that’s involved, according to CIO Review.

Savvy healthcare leaders realize the fact that introducing new technology affects “deeply ingrained, cultural, automatic processes. Simply installing a software application on physicians’ smartphones will not change their behavior. Changing behavior requires strategic thinking and planning so that physicians and nurses will see benefits and value.”

Simply installing a software application on physicians’ smartphones will not change their behavior. Changing behavior requires strategic thinking and planning so that physicians and nurses will see benefits and value, says the CIO… Click To Tweet

Practices that implement Rendia’s patient education tools, for example, need to consider how they previously educated patients. Were they verbally explaining procedures and drawing diagrams on a prescription pad? If so, show them how they can use Exam Mode to visualize anatomy with illustrations on an iPad. Were they sending patients home with pamphlets or printouts? Show them how to email patients videos that can be accessed from home and shared with family and caregivers.

Implementing new technology requires strategic thinking, staff training, and leading by example.

Training is essential when introducing any new technology into your practice. Research shows that training staff in new technologies can boost employee engagement and retention, reducing costly staff turnover. Because “familiarity with and interest in digital technology varies widely” among employees, your training efforts should reflect those differences, said business consultant Didier Bonnet, coauthor of Leading Digital, in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Tech-savvy employees might adapt to a new tool quickly, so an all-day training session isn’t always necessary. Other employees might need one-on-one instruction. Harness the power of those tech-savvy “early adopters” and enlist them to assist their coworkers; this could be a simple “lunch and learn” session. Or take a page from the microlearning trend—short, focused content delivered to the learner when they need it and how they need it. For example, Rendia has a short video tutorial on Getting Started with Exam Mode, our visual anatomy tool:

During the implementation phase, it’s important for doctors and practice owners to lead by example, advises Bonnet. “Show that you are investing time in learning the new system.” Rendia allows practices to monitor usage, so you can track staff adoption and offer praise, thanks, or small incentives to the users who embrace the change.

According to Physicians Practice, “Change can be good. When managed effectively, it can reinvigorate your practice and create a teamwork mentality within your practice.”