Change Management

Navigating Change and Innovation in Healthcare IT: The Transformative Role of the Workforce

I worked as a file clerk in a rural hospital many years ago. I remember seeing row after row of folders with colorful numbered stickers for terminal digit filing. I would see pieces of red plastic sticking out between the folders. That piece of plastic called an out guide reminded the team of clerks of where the missing chart would need to be placed once it was returned to the medical records department. There were carts of charts, rolling wheels, and busy hands looking for places to return patient information to its rightful place. Working in Medical Records was my first lesson in logistics. That was many years ago.

My next memorable experience was when I witnessed the use of those huge scanners in the Health Information Management department. Vendors often assured us we could scan at least 30 correctly barcode documents in one sitting. However, that was rarely the case. Sheets would get stuck together, barcodes were replaced upside down, or some other human error prevented these documents from being uploaded into the brand-new systems. Even on the rare occasions when every barcode was placed correctly, there would be an issue with the scanner. We would keep the service department busy with questions about using this new equipment. We still had a cart, but it was filled with loose pieces of paper instead of charts that needed to be rehomed. The transition was implemented to be more efficient and provide better access to patient records than the manual chart-moving process. However, productivity suffered as we learned how to move from a human-powered process to depending on innovation and technology. The transition was indeed a challenging journey, but we persevered.

Years later, I was a part of a team tasked with implementing a fully digital record. I witnessed the miracle of interoperability. I saw the seamless transmission of patient data from admission to discharge. It was a beautiful sight. I could work at the elbow with end users as they learned how to do things differently than they ever had before. There were very few instances where paper records were used, with the rare exception of downtime. Most facilities had already transitioned their paper records into digital storage. This transition created new positions in the department, and emerging EHR technologies were seen in action. I was amazed and loved every minute. I miss those days.

In every scenario, there was one word that transcended – change. This change was seen in large proportions when it came to technology. Bhatia (2021) writes that very few healthcare areas have escaped the impact of technology. These substantial changes impacted people and processes in the healthcare ecosystem. Having a method to deal with the modifications in how things were always done was the key to doing something new in the evolving healthcare landscape. Change management is the alteration of current concepts of procedures into a new style or model to successfully implement change (Kumarasinghe & Dilan, 2021, p. 52). With all the innovations introduced in the departments, the workforce needed to be trained on new processes. Those processes provided a glimpse into what it meant to be agile and able to adapt when the old way was replaced by something shiny and new.

In some cases, there was a mass exodus. Legacy staff did not want to learn how to do things the new way. In other scenarios, legacy and new staff embraced change and wanted to see how new technology could improve internal workflows, patient outcomes, and the patient experience. I have seen the best-laid plans go awry when the people were not included in departmental changes. I've seen groups of people excited about new workflows put in place to make their lives easier. I've also seen employees experience disappointment because the processes did not meet their expectations. Change is inevitable, but change is hard. Change without the promises made is even more complicated. How do we embrace change and make room for those impacted's valuable and valid voices?

Change management methodologies can help organizations and departments facilitate the transition between the old and the new. Effective communication and stakeholder engagement are two critical factors to consider. The best plan sometimes goes awry when those who work in the field have no input regarding departmental and organizational change. Even when change is necessary, sharing truth and transparency will build trust and strengthen the internal workforce, keeping an organization moving in the right direction. Facilitating change is challenging, even if it benefits the people and processes involved. Leaders must find innovative ways to help internal and external stakeholders adjust and adapt to changes to improve operations in the healthcare organization.

Embracing change requires innovative thought and process leaders who accept the challenge of changing how things have always been done. It requires a clear focus on the current and future state of healthcare. As we reflect on how much patient data management has changed over the years, we see that improvements have made protected health information more accessible. This change has not only benefited providers, payers, and patients, but it has also significantly improved clinical decision-making for positive patient outcomes. Even in light of the benefits, patience, and empathy are required to deal with change. Organizational and business unit leaders are tasked with maintaining stable environments while moving toward a better future in healthcare.

After decades in healthcare, I have witnessed some of the field's most transformative and essential changes. I am grateful for the emerging technologies that will help provide personalized and patient-centric care to improve outcomes. Things have changed significantly from the days of paper charts, carts, and red plastic placeholders. The data management process has been enhanced since the days when sticky pieces of paper were caught in the scanner. After all these years and a long list of changes, I've grown to appreciate the power of supporting the healthcare IT workforce as they learn to do something new to improve the way things have previously been done. Their role in this transition and ability to embrace change is invaluable and should be recognized.


  1. Bhatia, R. (2021). Emerging health technologies and how they can transform healthcare delivery. Journal of Health Management, 23(1), 63–73.
  2. Kumarasinghe, H. N., & Dilan, H. (2021). Organizational change and change management. In Contemporary innovation in management (pp. 49–69). Global Learners Academy of Development.