Nobody likes change, least of all when they feel it is being forced upon them. In fact, there are few things more difficult than introducing a new way of doing things. Fortunately, we are experts at change management and have many years of experience in carrying out large-scale change programmes. In this blog, I will share some of the lessons we have learned at the leading edge of digital health in the NHS and how we have overcome workplace challenges to improve healthcare for patients and free up clinicians to spend more time with those with the greatest need.
Extensive experience in complex assignments
First though, an introduction. I am head of the project management office and compliance at Inhealthcare and have extensive experience in successfully managing complex assignments in healthcare settings. Before joining the company in 2016, I worked for nearly 15 years in senior project management roles within NHS organisations, including the safe exit from a major IT contract at a hospital trust, national IT projects reporting into NHS England and digital transformation and business change programmes for primary and community care providers.
Listen to people and give them a say
To repeat, nobody likes change. But if you listen to people and give them a say in the process, you will succeed in your objectives. I will always remember a community nurse who was very vocal in his reservations about a new remote care service being rolled out across his patch. What about the regular visits to care home residents, he asked. Who would be keeping an eye on all of them? Actually, he would be, but without having to drive hundreds of miles every week. The technology enabled him to prioritise his nursing visits according to need and maintain contact with everyone else. He became an enthusiastic convert.
Iron out any problems before going live
Listening is the most important element of any successful change programme. At the start of every exercise, we engage with the people who will be working with the new technology on a daily basis. In these sessions, they come up with excellent questions and sometimes raise issues that did not emerge during the pathway design process with clinical managers. This gives everyone the chance to iron out any problems before the service goes live and is an essential part of change management.
Trainers must feel supported in their organisations
We like to train the trainers. We want to empower the people who will be spreading knowledge and capability throughout NHS trusts. They are typically the project sponsors, the super users and the best advocates for change. We like to support them as much as possible during the programme. Most importantly, they must feel supported within their organisations as well. To achieve this, you need buy-in for your programme at every level.
Face-to-face is not always needed
The pandemic has changed attitudes to technology. Through necessity, people have embraced digital communications with their friends and family. They are much more familiar with video tools. People have learned they do not always need to see someone face-to-face to have a successful interaction. They have seen for themselves that information can be safely and securely gathered using tried and tested technology.
Winning hearts and minds
As a digital health provider with more than 100 services across the UK, we have hosted many training sessions in different parts of the country. We have broken down multiple barriers to change and won hearts and minds in our joint enterprise to improve health and care with our NHS partners. It was always our plan to deliver more training online. Since the coronavirus, this process has accelerated. We now deliver all training sessions online through our virtual classrooms and video tutorials.
Clear and concise content
We welcome feedback, good or bad. Fortunately, most of the feedback has been excellent. Users like our clear and concise content. We have worked hard to make it as accessible as possible. Our video tutorials are short and to the point and available in bite-sized chunks after the live training sessions in our virtual classrooms. I would not pretend for a moment that change management is easy. It is not. There are always barriers to change. It is always challenging, but equally it is very rewarding as well when you can see the results of your work in happy and productive people, delivering compassionate care to patients.
• Anthea Baker is head of the project management office and compliance at Inhealthcare