Specifically, how to get your doctors to use an electronic vacation and day-off request system;
“My Doctors won’t do it that way.” “My doctors are so busy they can’t learn one more thing”. “My doctors just want to do it the old way”. If you are in healthcare and are a practice manager, clinic manager or in a leadership position, how many times have you heard the statements above? My guess would be almost every time you try to do something new. How is it that some physicians are open to change and trying new things, while others are not? I have a sneaking suspicion its all about the approach.
When trying to move a new initiative forward and gain physician buy-in, be it a new clinical documentation initiative or trying to adopt a new electronic vacation and day-off request system, some of the basic techniques still apply.
- First and foremost, there must be a compelling purpose. Why are you wanting to do what you are proposing? Who will it help? Who will it hurt? Who cares? These answers need to be carefully considered. If your answers are not strategically aligned around your organizations long and short-term goals, then you may want to reconsider what you are trying to do. Be sure that the problem that you are solving is real and effects more than just you. The “purpose” you are identifying is needed in gaining support and buy-in. In our specific example, you need to clearly illustrate how moving from sending request emails to the scheduler to using the "new system" is meant to benefit the doctors. How? By reducing errors in translating request emails. It was designed to make it easier to submit requests by making the system available on the physicians computer or via an app on their phone. Clearly show them what is in it for them. You may find this previous blog post helpful "Who are you Buying On-Call Software for"? if you need some help identifying what is in it for the physicians.
- Find your “white knight”. Never tackle a large initiative alone. You need to find at least one person, of influence, that can help be a pollinator of your proposed idea.
In our specific example, find a doctor that most everyone respects. Do not pick the person who everyone already thinks is weird or the “techie” doctor. Just pick someone who understands why the practice needs to move away from a paper based vacation request system and sees the value as a physician in being able to do it him/herself when it is convenient for them. If you have to sell them on the “why” pick someone else who just "get’s it" without any convincing.
- Let the "white knight" pollinate. Just like a bee, your pollinator will fly around and talk with several others about the project. Show them how things work, dispel myths, and answer questions. In our example it would be ideal to download the app onto your physician pollinators phone. Be sure they are fully trained on requesting vacations and days-off on-line. Have them submit all their requests using the “new way” and give honest feedback to his/her partners about their experience. You want the pollinator to be able to compare and contrast his/her new experience to someone who is doing it the old way.
- Track where everyone is at. If you have a larger organization you can use Excel to track who is supporting your initiative and who is not. This is not done to punish, but more to see if your new process is making a difference. If you have 20 physicians and you have everyone on board except 2, then you may choose to move forward despite the laggards. In our example you need to clearly understand who is on board and who is not. Go through this list with your "white knight" and see if you can strategize on how to convert the stubborn ones.
- Remember The Pareto Principle. 80/20 might be good enough. Physician adoption can sometimes be slow. You may have to settle for 80% of your providers adopting a new way of doing something. When the 80% are happy and seeing the benefits of the new process or initiative, it is easier to mandate that the others now must join-in. In our example you may not get everyone on board right away. 100% participation may require some attrition, meaning the stubborn older providers to retire. The younger physicians are going to expect to participate electronically, for some its all they know.
- Stand by your decision and enforce new policies. Everything is going to be harder and messier in the beginning of implementation. Nothing will work perfect, there will be glitches, people may even be termporarly inconvenienced. All of this is part of change. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to give-in or give-up too early. If this happens often you can have a whiplash type of effect where there is too much change back and forth and people are confused as to which they should follow, the old way or the new way. This also can taint your next project, so be careful. Unless it is a disaster, claw your way to success. You will be happy you did. In our example please remember not to give up too soon. Take the time to work with those who are struggling. Resist the temptation to give up. Remember what your alternative is, going back to emails and sticky notes on your chair.
Key Takeaway: Anything worth having is going to take some time to learn and adjust to. If physicians clearly understand what is in it for them, they have some best practice examples to follow, and they are given ample time to convert and adjust, you will most likely be just fine, as long as you take the correct approach. Although making a transition from an email day-off or vacation request from the physicians to an electronic systm will make everyone's life so much easier, it will be worth the transition.
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net