It’s no secret that change is simply a part of life in healthcare. Organizations that can easily adapt and acclimate to the ever-evolving landscape will be the most successful and those who are able to do it with an organized approach will achieve it with fewer headaches. Our previous blog discusses why change is required to achieve a successful EHR implementation and experience, and why identifying operational subject matter experts (SMEs) in your organization is essential.

So, what’s next? How does an organization like yours avoid or alleviate those growing pains? Through managing change thoughtfully and effectively. Let’s explore further.

Establishing a change control board and program

First, let’s define what “change control” means. Changes in operations result in adjustments in how you leverage your EHR for the long term. Change control requires thoroughly considering potential adjustments, features or upgrades to ensure they are the right approach to meet your objectives and align with your strategic plan. The purpose of change control is to try to avoid major disruption brought about by the change. This is where your SMEs can come in, as part of your change control board ensuring that their voice is heard.  Making sure they have ownership of communication of changes to their business area, clearly articulating the business reason for the change, the impact to daily workflows, and very importantly the measured success you are striving to obtain. The best change control board represents many different roles throughout your organization.

Pursuing a change control program typically utilizes SMEs in evaluating requests for changes and establishing a process in which to implement these adjustments. Requests for change must be requested, evaluated, tested, documented and implemented. The control board is responsible for assessing the frequency of changes, how long they take and communicate back to key stakeholders on whether to act on them.

Managing change

Next, we have change management. In a nutshell, this process focuses on overseeing the actual implementation of the adjustment or change, ensuring any disruptions, mistakes or corrections are avoided. Where change control determines the changes, change management ensures they are executed.  This is focused strongly on the people side of your business – that they know what is happening, they understand how it will impact their lives and they know when it will happen.

In a perfect world, change management should start as part of the initial project kick off and continue into the operational phase. It is important for each group to understand why they need to leave the current state (paper records, for example), why the future state (adopting an EHR) is better, and specifically how that impacts them. This is essential to ensure that everyone in your organization adopts the EHR as theirs. From the top down, everyone must believe in the project and hold a personal stake in it.

Alleviate stress about change

Change is difficult. For some more than others. This is why it’s important to understand how accepting change actually occurs. It’s always unnerving when a new element is introduced to your familiar workflow, no matter how much it needs to be updated. By maintaining transparent communication and providing education to those not involved in the initial decision making, it’s easier to build trust and confidence among staff who may be nervous about making change, avoiding resistance and chaos.

When staff become secure in the decision and understand how making the change can benefit in the long run, they can become your biggest advocates and supporters. To avoid slipping back into negative or cautious outlooks, it’s important to reinforce their ability to provide input and feedback. When individuals know they have a voice and will be informed and educated, it reinforces their trust in the change.

Don’t leave change to chance. Implementing an EHR is one of the most significant cultural changes a healthcare organization can experience. It’s an opportunity to alter work processes and habits and the lives of your staff and your clients. But it must be embraced and embedded in your culture. From implementing a new EHR to making simple adjustments to operations and workflow within it, no one said change was easy, but with an operational strategy in place it’s manageable.