3 steps physicians say make practice changes successful

Troy Parks
Staff Writer
AMA Wire
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The new year is here and brings with it many—often too many—resolutions for change. While change fatigue is common, when the desire for change comes from within your practice, the results can unify your team. If you’re planning to make changes in 2016, use these three tips from physicians to select the right change initiatives for your practice and keep your practice team on board throughout the process.

How to decide on changes in your practice

Change is always difficult, and identifying the right opportunities for improvements in your practice often can be the most critical part of the transformation process. For instance, you may want to iron speed bumps out of your work flow, or you may want each member of your practice team to be enabled to perform at the top of their skill set.

Change becomes much easier to lead and facilitate when the change initiative addresses issues that arise from the needs and experiences of your practice team. The AMA’s STEPS Forward™ collection provides a module with three steps developed by physicians for success as you get ready for change in your practice.

Use this three-step framework to choose the best change initiatives to tackle important goals within your practice:

Determine whether the change will ease the work burden for those who deliver care

Generating commitment to change requires your practice team to be able to individually see “what’s in it for them.” A successful change should make it easier for front-line workers to do their work well.

Involving all members of your team in the process—from determining which project to undertake to actual implementation—will ensure their involvement, buy-in and engagement throughout the process.

When considering whether a specific change will be beneficial, ask these questions:

  • What aspects of the daily work frustrate the physicians and other members of your practice team?
  • What does your practice team do that seems counterproductive or unnecessary?
  • In what areas are the results of your care delivery disappointing?
Confirm that the change will improve patient care

Most initiatives your team identifies will likely benefit patients. For example, eliminating duplication or repetition in a process will translate to more time spent with patients.

Measurement is key to change implementation. First, measure the current state so your team can see improvement as it happens. Measurement will also give your team a goal to work toward. For example, if your team anticipates saving 20 minutes by implementing a certain process, they will remain motivated until they accomplish that goal.

Even if the goal is exceeded, your team may continue working to see how much they can surpass the original goal. Seeing improvement is a positive energy builder.

Confirm that a revenue stream will support the change

Dedicating people, time and energy to embark on an improvement initiative must make financial sense. If benefits do not outweigh costs, your practice should not make the change.

It is easier to commit to change when the costs of not making the change—maintaining inefficient operations or poor patient outcomes—are made clear. Work with your financial manager to see the potential benefits of implementing your change project. Several STEPS Forward modules offer calculators to determine cost and time savings. You can find these calculators in modules on pre-visit planning, pre-visit laboratory testing and synchronized prescription renewal.

How these three-steps are working for physicians

One practice, the Family Care Network in Bellingham, Wash., used this three-step framework several times over the past few years to select change efforts. One such effort utilized the concerns of the practice care team to implement a patient management system change that saw tremendous success in managing patients on anticoagulants, improving convenience for the patient and reducing phone calls to the practice. The Family Care Network then capitalized on the team’s increased motivation to improve further.

After initial success with their first project, the practice team’s attitude toward practice improvement projects changed. They suggested new projects and were able to further improve patient care and advance teamwork.

Check out the module to find a more in-depth look at what it takes to select the right change initiatives for your practice and to read the Family Care Network’s story. This module offers continuing medical education credit.

More than 25 modules are available in the AMA’s STEPS Forward collection, and several more will be added in 2016, thanks to a grant from and collaboration with the Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative.

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