The Missing Ingredient for Health Systems’ Digital Transformation

Aug 28, 2019

Posted by Tory Williams

Health systems everywhere are hoping their virtual health investments will save them time and money while expanding their competitive offerings. But they’re finding that without a change management strategy, it’s still business as usual.

Few debate the potential of virtual health technology to transform the health care industry. But that transformation isn’t happening as rapidly as expected. The American Hospital Association (AHA) broke it down in a recent report, identifying eight key barriers to virtual health expansion, including these:

  • Lack of leadership and organizational commitment to develop an overarching strategy and integrate into care delivery
  • Decentralized departmental solutions and pilot programs without governance structure and dedicated management
  • Inadequate clinical engagement and readiness without consideration of human factors in the user experience and workflows for both clinicians and patients

The report goes into greater detail. But put simply, change is hard. And without organizational commitment, top-down mandates fall flat.

Successful transformation takes a thoughtful change management strategy.

At Reingold, we not only create marketing programs directed at health care consumers, but we also focus on the entire continuum of care — supporting health care providers, administrators, and marketers in transforming health care.

We’ve worked with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the largest integrated health network in the nation, for nearly a decade. We also work with dozens of professional societies representing physicians and clinicians and with an internationally renowned research hospital.

We know from experience that transformation requires more than just head nodding; it takes stakeholder buy-in and engagement throughout the process. By finding ways to acknowledge and address role-specific barriers to adoption of virtual health technology, you can go beyond just readying stakeholders for change — you can enlist them as advocates.

Here’s how we’re doing it with VHA.

One of the goals of our work with VHA is to help drive adoption of virtual health technology across the network. We develop technology and facility-specific change management strategies and work with VHA to map and articulate the vision for change in ways that are relevant to stakeholders. Here are a few examples of how we implement these strategies:

  • Disseminate timely, proactive communications. Health systems need to communicate their overarching vision and its relevance to employees and their work. When employees feel invested, they pay attention and engage — and become advocates of change. For VHA, we focus just as much on communicating the “why” of virtual health adoption as we do with “how” and “when.”
  • Cultivate employee advocates. As AHA says, leadership commitment to change is important. But nothing is more powerful than peer-to-peer advocates. You need employees to help carry your message. At Reingold, we help VHA identify and cultivate superusers among facility leaders and practicing providers, and then amplify their voices to build momentum for change.
  • Deliver role-specific training. Commercial, off-the-shelf technologies typically come with some training, but it’s focused on operation of the product — not on how the technology fits into staffs’ workflows. Employees need to know that training is relevant to their organization, leadership, and processes. So we work with VHA to create and disseminate relevant training products that reflect the work experience of specific employees.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for managing change, especially in health care. It takes a thoughtful strategy that considers your employees, processes, and culture. This is why health care transformation isn’t going to take place at the industry level. Individual health systems that are committed to virtual health technology and shape their own transformation are ultimately going to end up on top in the competitive marketplace.

Reingold’s team includes leading experts in virtual health transformation and provider engagement. To learn more and speak to one of our virtual health experts, email