Help your healthcare clients get over the fear of new IT

Thoughtful education of healthcare employees will help usher in powerful new technologies.
Thoughtful education of healthcare employees will help usher in powerful new technologies.
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By Laura Speek
MBA, learning and development specialist at The Breakaway Group, a Xerox Company.

Around the globe, hospitals, clinics, and medical practices are scrambling to adopt increasingly complex health information technology systems. While medical chief information officers evaluate a lush offering of sophisticated technological advances, they still face the challenge of dealing with old-fashioned human resistance to change.

Unquestionably, fear is a driving force behind this resistance. This includes fear of the unknown, fear of wasting money, fear of losing productivity, and–in the case of healthcare providers–fear of making a life-threatening mistake. Given the stakes, caregiver resistance to new technology adoption is both understandable and natural.

In a clinical setting, fear-based resistance can manifest itself in creating “work-arounds” to avoid using technology or creating a string of excuses to delay the inevitable. As a learning and development specialist with The Breakaway Group, I have the opportunity to help healthcare organizations neutralize fear-based resistance to technological change through simulation-based HIT adoption training. Here are a three key points that underlie our unique approach:

1. Identify the depth and breadth of the resistance

In many medical organizations, certain providers appear to lead resistance campaigns. Smart CIOs realize that as a group, doctors have loud voices and command large audiences. But providers may only be a visible (and audible) tip of a fear-frozen iceberg that is much larger and deeper than originally thought.

It is a good idea to survey all employees to identify the scope and shape of HIT resistance in your organization. This is the foundation for developing a systemic training plan to overcome silent but deep opposition.

2. Capitalize on learner characteristics

Although every medical group has multiple job descriptions and responsibilities, adult learners are the primary target audience. Adults share some learning characteristics that can be leveraged to launch a strategic anti-resistance training program:

  • They are motivated by practicality. They eagerly engage in learning opportunities that directly relate to their particular challenges and responsibilities. Training that is based on real-life, role-based scenarios immediately captures their attention and interest.
  • They have limited time. They respond well to training that can be accessed 24/7, and is presented in small, manageable chunks. They also prefer the convenience of individual, self-paced learning.
  • They are naturally skeptical regarding change, particularly technological change. If the goal is to reduce fear and resistance, training should be non-threatening and repeatable. Ideally, it should gently guide users through workflows and procedures, to systematically develop proficiency and confidence. While learners may need to pass exams to prove they have mastered the material, making the exams logical and repeatable reduces test anxiety. This encourages learners to focus on absorbing the material as opposed to fixating on potential test questions.
  • They can be overwhelmed with information overload. While it is tempting to show off every technological bell and whistle in a new HIT system, we urge clients to initially focus only on tasks required to develop proficiency (not mastery) for regular job performance. It takes discipline (and sometimes surgical skill) to limit training in this way, but we find it has the benefit of getting people up to speed quickly while building confidence, and most importantly, developing a desire to learn more.

3. Get creative with metrics

Adult learners can be highly competitive. A smart training program uses metrics in a way that encourages healthy competition, gives participants a sense of accomplishment, and provides feedback to make continual improvements.

Short, interactive simulation courses tick all the boxes discussed here. They are relevant, manageable, convenient, repeatable, and non-threatening. They take advantage of adult learner characteristics in a way that naturally reduces fear and resistance, builds knowledge required for HIT proficiency, and even puts a little fun into the equation. One physician described his simulator experience as “addicting.”

Organizations using simulation-based training report smoother, less stressful go-live events–and over time–deeper, more permanent integration of new technology into workflows. In the long run, smart training programs that truly address the needs, concerns, and learning styles within an organization can result in a lot more bang for the HIT investment buck.

For more information on Health IT view the infographic.

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This story first appeared on HealthBiz Decoded, a Xerox-sponsored digital magazine that provides insight on the business of healthcare. It was not written by the Quartz editorial staff.