10 Reasons Why Healthcare Resists Change

10 Reasons Why Healthcare Resists ChangeBy: Kriss Barlow, RN MBA

I think a lot about how to help people feel good about change.  Most often, organizations bring in a consultant, like me, to help them make a change internally, such as initiating a new program or growing the staff’s skills. Perhaps it goes without saying:  Some people want innovation, but many are really uncomfortable with it– and with me!

What makes people most uncomfortable?  Interestingly, it is not when I am doing a full redeployment; it is when I am brought in to “do training” as a magic solution, to get their model on the right track.  (Field staff are given a day or two of training and then expected to change their entire approach).

How does your organization, your department or you, on a personal level, embrace change?  Before you answer that, consider what causes you to resist it.  People push back against change for all sorts of reasons, but here are several ideas that make sense for physician relations and physician strategy.

Check out my list of “Reasons We Resist” and tell me what’s missing.

  1. Poor communication. When the reason for change has not been clearly articulated, no one is quite sure why a consultant is there or what management expects to achieve.
  2. Fear of the unknown. People resist what they don’t understand, especially when tangible measures are a part of that unknown.
  3. Change is mandated. When people feel that change was done to them, not with them, any outside solution is off-putting, at best. No involvement makes buy-in difficult.
  4. Individuals may perceive a loss of their position or status.  In the case of physician relations it may be the subtle change as we evolve into solutions and away from the “person who fixes everything for the doctor.”
  5. Acceptance of status quo.  This is a HUGE one! People take comfort in doing things the way they have always been done.  Because a competency has been built and there is personal value in sticking to the status quo, anything that disrupts the current approach feels unsettling.
  6. Opportunity for opposition.  Sometimes, the announcement of a change gives team members an opportunity to oppose the person leading the charge, especially when there is a new “Sheriff” in town or the team believes the current leader doesn’t “get” their role.
  7. Change becomes personal. When people see change as a personal attack on their current performance, they feel devalued and, threatened.
  8. New is intimidating.  It’s natural for individuals to question their abilities and to wonder if they can learn and perform up to new standards.  Rather than embrace a different way, they worry, “What if I can’t get the measurable growth in cardiology that is expected?”
  9. The vision isn’t shared. Often, there is a desire to change, but change according to a different set of goals or expectations.  In this case, the overriding thought becomes, “I am happy to change, but I believe the better approach is to do X, Y or Z.”
  10. Change is hard. Sometimes people resist change simply because it is change.

I’m sure I missed a few, so please share your thoughts.  Once we identify what is driving our resistance to change, the next step is to determine how we can overcome the fear.  Any great ideas?

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