March 23, 2022

Change Management – The Secret Sauce to Successful Projects

Trish Figueroa

If you are a revenue cycle leader, then you are an agent of change. Plain and simple. If you don’t think of yourself that way, there may be an important aspect of your professional development in need of some care and feeding. Of course, a significant portion of our time in the revenue cycle management space is spent on keeping the lights on and the wheels turning, but the adage that change is the only true constant has never been truer.

Between the competing pressures of the lightning-fast changes brought on by the pandemic (hello, telemedicine and remote work), the onward march of regulatory requirements that impose sweeping operational changes (I’m looking at you, No Surprises Act), and the consumer-driven forces reminding us that a patient-centric focus must not end in the exam room, it’s easy to feel untethered and adrift on a sea of change.

Unfortunately, it can be all too common for an otherwise outstanding organizational effort to be undermined by ineffective change management. Many a project has been stymied by a failure to understand the complexities of implementing lasting change. Too often, change management is an afterthought instead of running in parallel with all other project work from kick-off through go-live and beyond.

An organized and tactical approach to change management can take the guesswork and frustration out of a regulatory or strategic initiative and drive consistently better outcomes to boot. Affecting lasting positive change doesn’t happen by accident, and it certainly doesn’t happen without a game plan. The time required to manage change should be anticipated and allocated like any other essential function of the job.

When planning for any transformation from large to small, there are a few essential questions one must ask about the change at hand:

· Who needs to know about this and why do they care?

· How should they be communicated with to make the message stick?

· At what point and how often should they be told?

· How do I embed this change into our processes in perpetuity?

· How can I monitor and measure outcomes to ensure that a change has stuck?

 

Plan for Change Management Early and Often

Knowing the answers to these critical questions can help you craft a change management strategy that adds direction and structure to your efforts. A comprehensive strategy for change should start at a project’s inception and carry through to post-live stabilization and optimization. Of course, it’s not enough to ask these questions once and call it a day. Answers will often morph over the course of a complex initiative and should be asked again and again.

Why not align each milestone of a project with a change management checkpoint to reevaluate these points as you progress? Adjustments to strategy and planning can be made as a result and your project will continue to be aimed in the right direction…even if the target continues to move.

Determining the Audience and the Venue

Effective change management isn’t simply a matter of determining who needs “training” and then providing that training shortly before a go-live. Determining the audience to which your change management messages should be tailored happens from the very beginning of your efforts straight through to the end. Effective leaders should always be asking themselves, “Who needs to know about this?” Just as importantly, “What do they need to know and why should they care?”

Change management planning may drive the establishment of a new steering committee or strategic oversight group. It could mean that a project status report is created that’s targeted toward a group of leaders that don’t have regular contact with the project but should be aware of progress. It could result in the creation of a user acceptance testing subgroup that will validate changes before they are ready for prime time. Taking the time to think through who needs to hear your message and how it can best be transmitted as you progress through your initiative will multiply your chances of success in the long run.

Change Management Isn’t a One-Way Street

It isn’t enough to simply gather and send information outward from within a project structure to those on the outside. To realize lasting and successful change, the best change managers also look to pull good information back in and create a feedback loop that will prevent siloed thinking and isolated decision-making. As you carry out a change management plan of action, be sure that you’ve incorporated mechanisms that will foster a return of information from the outside back in. This concept can take on many forms: perhaps a survey of training attendees to gauge the efficacy of the format and content, perhaps a touchpoint status meeting to provide updates and solicit comments and concerns, or perhaps a validation session to review use cases applicable to your efforts. However this feedback loop materializes, your change management efforts will invariably benefit from a bidirectional approach.

If your team is looking out over an ocean of revenue cycle changes on the horizon with trepidation or distress, help is out there! Partnering with a seasoned change-maker from The Wilshire Group’s strategic advising team can mean the difference between frustration and a strong and successful finish. With focused time and an organized change management approach, you can ensure that your team’s hard work always delivers results. Win. Win. And win again. If you would like to learn more about Advisory Services at The Wilshire Group, contact us at info@thewilshiregroup.net.

Trish Figueroa

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