The health system needs transformation—it needs change management too

Regardless of your interest in health care—be it its rising costs, challenging wait-times, our aging population, or the desire for a patient-centric approach—you probably sense there is a need for considerable change in our system.

Having spent my entire career in health care, the one thing I realize is that health system transformation is necessary. It is also complex. Health care in Canada is delivered by a plethora of professions with differing and sometimes competing interests and objectives. This is no Field of Dreams where, if you “build it, they will come.”[1] Unless you understand the stakeholders, the environment and how change works, it’s going to be difficult to make, let alone sustain, change.

If you are not the one with the vision behind change, you are probably either an agent of change or a recipient of change. Having experienced numerous organizational change efforts, I have generally preferred to be an agent of change than a recipient. For me, the opportunity to influence the way change unfolds is stabilizing. Being an agent ensures I have access to information; that I become a subject matter expert in it; and that I can draw on experience and my skills to shape the way it unfurls. Being a recipient of change can be destabilizing—nobody likes when things happen to them.

This experience is largely why Joule encourages physicians to take a leadership role in the way our health care future unfolds. Not only are they often trusted advisors, bringing others along, they have front-line experience with the challenges facing patients, their partner professions and physician colleagues.

 This is important because change efforts are most successful when there is commitment for them. And, commitment arises when one believes the benefits (what one gains) outweigh the costs (what one loses) of the change. When you get commitment from those on the frontlines, much of your change journey improves. Your costs go down, adoption goes up and perhaps most importantly, change sticks.

If I had one piece of advice it’s this—if you are in health care and your goals are lofty, don’t skimp on change management. It’s not about going fast, it’s about going far.[2]


[1] Paraphrased from Field of Dreams (1989) A fim directed by Phil Alden Robinson, adapted from W. P. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe.

[2] Reference to African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

About the author

Lindee David

Lindee is the proud Chief Executive Officer of Joule. She is a strategic, innovative senior executive who has made a career of driving change within the health care system. Her vision is to create a movement of physician-led innovation that will result in health care improvements for physicians and their patients.

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