Canadian Medical Association

Change is inevitable in the lifecycle of any system — and health care is no exception. In the medical profession, change can be brought about by new technologies, social shifts, advancements in medical knowledge and many other factors.

But when change happens, it often adds additional stress on physicians who already face significant challenges every day. 

This page provides resources and strategies to help health care leaders achieve change in medical settings in a way that optimizes physicians’ health, wellness and adaptability. 

Principles of successful change management 

It is estimated that 70% of change initiatives fail. To be successful, change plans should:

  • Include those affected by the change early in the planning process
  • Consider human factors (e.g., motivations, behaviours)
  • Directly address individual barriers to change 
  • Build in sustainability from the beginning

How to implement change effectively

While all changes and the circumstances behind them are unique, there are actions you can take to help your people adapt during any transition:

  • Provide a structured approach to help the people in your organization move from the current state to the new state.
  • Draw on research in psychology and sociology to make change easier and more sustainable.
  • Explore Kotter's eight-step process for leading change to prepare and support individuals to successfully adopt change. These steps include: 
    • Creating an urgent or compelling business case to convey the need for change
    • Establishing a guiding team or steering committee
    • Developing a vision of the future and action plans for making change happen
    • Communicating the upcoming changes clearly
    • Making the change steps easy to follow
    • Creating ways for quick wins to be seen and felt by those affected
    • Building on those quick wins, learning from the challenges and continuing on
    • Planning for sustainability

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