The paradox of innovation – overcoming resistance to change

By Tom Hills, PerfectServe  /  13 Nov 2013

I regularly cross paths with hospital executives looking to integrate the latest and greatest health IT tool or processes. By far their primary challenge in adopting new technology is dealing with resistance to change. Last month, I attended a bi-annual Health Management Academy meeting that addressed this common obstacle. The forum – which brought together CEOs, CMOs, COOs and CFOs from the largest health systems in the US – sparked me to think about a few things causing this barrier to adoption, and how we can overcome them:

  • The value of time – In healthcare, time is money. But when the next big thing is at our fingertips, how do we capture the attention of administrative leaders when there are so many initiatives competing for their time? I think the solution lies in physician leadership. I can attest to the fact that hospitals and health systems with early adopter physician visionaries are more successful in rallying their organization to consider innovative, easy-to-use technologies that support more efficient and higher quality care. It’s important to involve these doctors in the decision making process from the get-go, as this often spurs adoption of the technology once it’s been implemented.
  • Real-time revenue vs. long-term investment – Current change in health care is requiring CFOs to attack every budget line item. Thus, providers are wary of implementing something new and innovative if it can’t demonstrate clear and immediate ROI. But oftentimes, the real value of a solution comes from using it over a long period of time. Key to the successful implementation of technology is considering the long-term value – in helping to drive more efficient communication processes, a more mobile clinical workforce, faster time-to-treatment, etc. – versus focusing only on the short term return on the investment.
  • The “risk” of implementation – Health systems all across the country are consolidating resources through M&A, reorganization and downsizing, often causing leaders to be more averse to taking risk.  New technology isn’t often apt to make it into the mix, as it adds another unknown variable that clinicians need to get used to. But it can be a valuable tool in standardizing care across multiple facilities and departments. Provider leadership must show a commitment to innovation by devoting time and budget to it, perhaps by even creating a separate “innovation fund” to fuel these critical projects.

What’s clear to me is that while the industry as a whole recognizes that innovation is critical to improving care delivery, it can be challenging during tough times to inspire the adoption of new technologies across provider organizations. Providers need to be sure to continue to commit to funding innovation despite uncertain return. Fostering collaboration between physicians and executives to choose the best new technologies can help ensure the innovations that do make the cut are ones with the highest odds of success.

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