By Erin DuPree, M.D., FACOG
Chief Medical Officer and Vice President
The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare
“People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking, than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”
– John Kotter, The Heart of Change
The health care industry is changing rapidly. With that change comes ever-increasing challenges: payment changes, government mandates, public reporting, technology costs, and informing and engaging patients. The impact to physicians is enormous. Even though physicians find great pride and satisfaction in caring for people, burnout is a real concern.
That got me thinking about how physicians can LEAD change instead of being the recipients of change.
The delivery of health care requires skills that no one learns in medical school: finance, accounting, team building, regulations, information technology, operations, quality improvement – all requiring new knowledge and skills.
After all, we lead patients through changes every day. In my OB-GYN practice, I led patients through the various stages of preventing a pregnancy, planning for a pregnancy, the actual pregnancy, and the inevitable changes after the new baby arrived.
Yet, as physician leaders, we are usually reacting to change -- the latest regulation, the flavor of the month from the CEO, or a new nursing leader in a key service line.
As Kotter’s quote indicates, change requires touching people – their feelings and their hearts. In order to lead change we have to get in touch with our own hearts and invite others to do the same. This was basically the LAST thing I was taught in medical school! Avoiding emotions and learning the nuts and bolts of complex diseases was all that mattered.
As physician leaders, leading change requires inspiring those around us. One of the best ways to do that is to make it personal -- tell a story, look for the resisters and listen to their concerns. Paint a vision of the future. We do this every day when we care for patients. We listen and we tell stories. We know what health and successful treatment looks like. We can lead patients in dealing with the unexpected changes because, usually, we have seen it hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. We can share the vision of success with them. If we can lead change with our patients, we can lead change in the hospitals, offices and systems in which we work.
As I went through the fourth (or was it the fifth?) round of electronic medical record (EMR) implementations, I shared stories with those around me of my frustrations with the implementation that impacted my patients and my practice, yet ultimately was successful. The stories resonated and inspired those around me; it gave them the confidence that they, too, could get through the massive changes associated with an EMR implementation.
It’s time to get in touch with your heart, your stories, and inspire those around you: being a physician leader is as much about being a human being as it is about being a doctor. This is how to lead change.