Background: Understanding change is crucial to implementing quality improvement (QI) initiatives. Widespread change will be required to correct what many consider to be outmoded and deficient systems of care. This article summarizes the current literature--within both health care and the fields of business and management--regarding how change occurs at the individual and organizational levels. Part 1 focuses on changing clinician behavior, which is instrumental to any effort directed in the health care setting. Part 2 examines the culture of change. Part 3 addresses issues of leadership, along with the necessary steps to guide change in an organization. Part 4 summarizes key elements of change. Finally, Part 5 provides three case examples of QI initiatives reported in the recent literature to illustrate how the application of the knowledge of change management can assist in the successful implementation of QI programs.
Key elements of change: The knowledge base regarding successful change in health care organizations can be summarized in eight crucial strategies or principles: (1) develop a vision for change, (2) focus on the change process, (3) analyze which individuals in the organization must respond to the proposed change and what barriers exist, (4) build partnerships between physicians and the administration, (5) create a culture of continuous commitment to change, (6) ensure that change begins with leadership, (7) ensure that change is well communicated, and (8) build in accountability for change.
Conclusion: A knowledge of change management can help leaders of QI programs in health care organizations successfully apply these concepts to bring about much-needed transformations in health care.