There’s no question that healthcare as we know it is changing. While there’s a growing discussion that the forthcoming disruptions may be the transformative innovation the healthcare industry needs, that won’t make these changes easier to navigate. Every healthcare company is working to understand how the Affordable Care Act will affect their business. The regulatory environment continues to evolve, just as the reimbursement landscape in many industries is undergoing massive upset. It might be trite to say, but for the healthcare industry, change – the good, the bad and the ugly – is the new normal.
A lot of industries experience change, but there are several reasons why healthcare change is unique.
- Change fatigue…and no end in sight: The industry is experiencing change fatigue from ongoing disruption. It’s no longer good enough to “manage change” as if it was a finite period of time. As communicators, we must acknowledge that change isn’t a destination – it is evolving and ongoing, especially as it relates to the giving and receiving of healthcare services.
- Perceived conflict with values: Changes (e.g., cost cutting, layoffs) may be perceived as inconsistent with the company’s core values. To maintain stakeholder engagement, it’s our challenge and imperative to position change in a way that is consistent with the values of helping people to live better lives.
- Diverse internal audiences: Healthcare companies have extraordinarily diverse internal audiences – from Ph.D.s to manufacturing or cafeteria workers. When facing change, this means a generic, methodology-based approach will not work across the board. It’s critical to tailor the experience to match the audience (especially secondary audiences).
- External stakeholder engagement: More than most industries, multiple external stakeholders are watching (patients, consumers, physicians, advocacy groups, regulatory bodies, etc.), so “getting it right” is critical. Even when it comes to “internal” changes like reorganizations or layoffs, communicators must ensure external stakeholders are equally and thoroughly considered.
Psychologists say that acknowledgement is the first step to healing. It’s a good time to take a hard look at how your company will evolve to meet the challenges of this increasingly complex landscape. As communicators, we can rise to the challenges faced by our industry by communicating actively and appropriately and equipping stakeholders to thrive through change. In fact, we have no choice.
So, tell us, how do you think change is different for the healthcare industry?