Posted: July 20, 2017

Tips from our Chief Technology Officer

Change is a part of life, and technology just accelerates it. So how do you navigate the peaks and valleys of ever-present technology change in an already complicated healthcare landscape? Having a strategy for dealing with and integrating new trends, your next upgrade, or a new vendor relationship will certainly make dealing with technology change easier. You just need to get started on the right foot.

Here are 6 tips for managing technology change in healthcare with less bumps in the road.

1. Understand and Phase-In the Change

Not all technology change is created equal, especially in healthcare. Begin to mitigate potential trials by understanding the specifics of how new technology impacts your organization and users and the opportunities it creates for growth among team members and toward your business goals. Don’t paint all change with the same brush.

Start by asking the right questions:

  • Is it a core system that affects all your users that you are making major changes to?
  • Is it a relatively contained system with a well-defined set of users that are affected?

If you can break a larger technology adoption project into smaller deliverables, you can incrementally affect your user base instead of trying to do a full system overhaul at once. You’ll also setup a structure for managing ongoing change, which may prove just as valuable as the particular change itself in the end.

2. Get Buy-In
Don’t ignore the voice of operations and other internal stakeholders. Many times in our excitement to install new tech, we sometimes dismiss people who might raise internal objections. There’s value in a different point of view, and if there’s one thing the internal operations team can do it’s save you a lot of headache and cost later on. Take their input seriously, and use it to refine your plans.

Once you’ve got stakeholder buy in, work through how you get the end users to buy in. Rolling out a complex system gets more difficult when end users have not been engaged throughout the process or bought into the technology already. Setup up some form of early user acceptance testing.

People tend to overestimate the immediate impact of change and underestimate the long term impact. Set expectations on near term benefits vs. what benefits will compound over the long term.

3. Organize Your Teams for Change
Technology is a team sport, and how you organize your teams will make a big difference in the ultimate ease or friction you encounter.

Whether full time employees or contractors, make sure you’re interviewing for skills beyond buzzword compliance. You need team members with the ability to reason and solve problems. If you are dealing with truly new technology, these skills will be more valuable in the long run than the base knowledge someone shows up with. Have your most experienced technical leads be part of the interview process early on.

Make sure you have enough people to handle the tasks efficiently but not so many that your workflow gets convoluted. Knowing how to be fluid in your team structure typically requires experienced managers and technologists, but when the number of unknowns is high, you gain more flexibility this way.

4. Manage Risk
Security is always top-of-mind in today’s technology world, especially in healthcare. Is the technology you want to add or change something that is likely to make a big impact on how people work day-to-day? Is there a big risk if the system goes down or data is lost or stolen?

Make sure you think about how you will test these changes – whether through a parallel system or subset of users or some other option. Hire third-party verification in domains so you can simulate bad actors – i.e. penetration testing or white hat security.

5. Get Ahead of Change
Hardware continues its relentless march towards lower cost and higher performance. Software continues to become more intelligent and easy to use. These are the seeds that sow disruption.

Staying ahead of the curve of disruptive tech means you’re better prepared for whatever change occurs. You need to intentionally carve out time for your teams to explore new tech or trends. Some organizations simply give all their technology teams a portion of their work hours to do this, while others may hire separate innovation teams focused on exploring new tech.

Depending on your internal team’s time, one approach may make more sense than the other, but either way you need to make sure the technology end users are involved in the process from the beginning. This way, any innovation efforts have an immediate feedback loop in terms of value to the ultimate user.

6. Seek Help Where You Can
Don’t be afraid to consult an expert. Chances are, someone else in the industry has gone through similar if not the same technology upgrade and would have some great words of wisdom to share. You can learn from their mistakes instead of your own. In the best case, you can hired that expert full time. You can often find them at meetups, Slack groups, special interest groups, or even online mailing lists.

Your real litmus test of how well prepared you are to manage technology change will come when you get to work with the actual software or tech, rather than demos or paper models along the way. Pick a small set of metrics – update frequency, number of reports you use, issue response time – that help you measure satisfaction and success, depending on the problem you’re using technology to solve. These benchmarks will help you make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment and that it truly is working for you.

Ready to take on your next technology upgrade but not sure where to start? Request our free healthcare marketing assessment, and we’ll help you find an area to optimize.