Strategies to Beat Resistance to Change

By AAPL Staff
November 9, 2018

Without the ability to predict or realize the result of an impending change, uncertainty can bring out fear and irrational behavior among the best of us.

THE CHALLENGE: Managing the way we feel about change, whether planned or not, is a complex process. Without the ability to predict or realize the result of an impending change (and the outcomes it might bring), uncertainty can bring out fear and irrational behavior among the best of us. There are many kinds of change, but technology-related change often evokes a particularly high level of resistance.


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One association member recalls her experience as a physician leader during the implementation of a new electronic medical records system. Its adoption was being driven by federal mandate, and eligible professionals were expected to demonstrate meaningful use quickly. There were financial incentives for participation, but more important, the new system would create efficiencies and eliminate redundancies. This change came at a time when established physicians were used to paper charts, and they feared their productivity would decline because of this change. To overcome resistance to it, she implemented four strategies:

Communicate regularly: She sent announcements about the EMR go-live date by way of a barometer. It was strategically placed in the medical staff office and in high-traffic areas. 

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Create a champions team: She found individuals to volunteer to be part of the pilot, allocating time to undergo special training — a “superusers” group. Some hesitant physicians were nudged to volunteer, and they eventually became advocates for the EMR. That helped implement a quick rollout.

Educate stakeholders: The EMR vendor nominated champions and nurse superusers who were available around the clock to provide on-demand help, which was of paramount importance. Physician superusers also were elected and available when in the hospital.

Provide technical help: She partnered with the vendor to help physicians create their own templates to make the transition easier. The documentation became simple and was less time-consuming, which significantly enhanced productivity.

THE BOTTOM LINE: This is a good example of a planned organizational change that had several points of resistance based on existing practices. In the end, the organization moved past the challenges associated with this change. The result was long-term success that might not have been possible otherwise. It is now difficult for most physicians at the health care organization to imagine a time before the EMR system was implemented. 

Adapted from Embracing Change, part of the American Association for Physician Leadership’s comprehensive online curriculum. More about our educational offerings and credentials at

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