8 Necessary Steps Towards Digital Transformation

December 30, 2019
Digital Health

Hospital and clinic managers often wonder how to implement a new IT system or functionality successfully. In this case, a common mistake is to focus one’s efforts solely on choosing the best technology – the perfect solution will fail if people refuse to accept it. After all, digital transformation is much more than just purchasing and installing a new IT system. It is a far-reaching interference in all established processes as well as employee habits and expectations.

Yet, even if the employees – doctors, nurses, administrative staff – are unsatisfied with the current situation and expect change, in reality, they do not want to modify the way they work. It’s true that “everybody wants a change, but nobody wants to change.” That’s why resistance to new solutions is often so strong that it effectively nullifies the positive effects of even the most crucial reforms.

When it comes to healthcare, one of the best-known organizational change processes that work well is the 8-step Kotter model. It comprises the following stages:

Create a sense of urgency regarding the changes among the employees. Employees need to know that the changes are essential and that there are specific reasons behind them. For example, the argument for introducing an online registration app for patients could be that the information hotline is continuously blocked by patients calling to register for a visit, or that the survey results indicate that patients are dissatisfied with how registration by phone works. Such a sense of urgency drives motivation and further mobilizes the employees.

Form a coalition to support change consisting of employees who like modern technology or expect some inefficient processes to be modernized. They will be ambassadors of change in their own professional groups and will proceed to communicate it at all levels of the organizational structure, effectively lobbying for the project among other employees.

Develop a strategic vision and concrete initiatives. A perfect vision is emotionally attractive, strategically wise, and easy to communicate. It provides an idea of what success is and a sense of the direction that should be followed to attain it. For example: “implementing the clinical decision support system will make it easier for doctors to access the most up-to-date scientific knowledge, increasing the quality of our medical services as a result.”

Communicate the vision and gain support among the staff. Since we already have a well-designed project, it is time to act. Kotter suggests that a bold vision and a specific time, financial, and organizational plan are the foundations for building genuine staff involvement. At this stage, it is worth considering what arguments the plan’s opponents can put forth and modify it accordingly, up to the point where it will be challenging actually to challenge it.

Mobilize everyone to act with the help of change ambassadors. If we are implementing a notification system about the patients’ laboratory results being beyond the accepted norms, we must first thoroughly train both doctors and nurses on how to enter appropriate messages in the IT system.

Celebrate the visible benefits and achievements. Kotter claims that people quickly lose the patience and energy needed to act. Therefore, evidence of the benefits of the changes must appear fairly quickly. For example, when switching to electronic-only medical records, such evidence could be the result of patient opinion surveys, showing that patients are satisfied with the fact that the doctors can access their full medical history immediately.

Maintain the pace and intensity of your activities. If any problems arise, they should be resolved quickly to prevent them from turning into a source of chronic frustration and dissatisfaction. Additionally, any improvement ideas presented by the employees must be verified and the justified ones implemented. For example, when alerts in the decision support system pop up too often, the system should be recalibrated, as otherwise, the doctors may ignore them.

Promote change until the new replaces the old. Change can only be considered successful once it has been fully absorbed into both the company culture and employee routine. Only when the new system or functionality becomes a standard part of the medical personnel’s daily work will the change become permanent.

In this regard, a well-planned digital transformation process results in a much higher chance of success than chaotic and disorganized actions. Although people do not like changes, by introducing them step by step, we can eventually win their trust and support. In the end, doctors, nurses, and the support staff all want their work to be effective and well-organized. Thus, the employees' acceptance of new software introduced at their hospital or clinic is never a matter of chance, but rather a direct result of the approach chosen by their managers.