How a simple patient story powered a hospital’s digital change program

  • Posted on August 3, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

Meet Lucy.

She’s a seven-year-old being treated for leukemia at Seattle Children’s, and just like many patients in healthcare systems across North America, her journey often lacks synergies between care teams and is anchored in reams of paper. Lucy is also fictional. But she managed to inspire the entire Seattle Children’s organization to understand and embrace the need to transform the patient’s digital experience to a model that will elevate their mission to deliver hope, care and cures.

I joined Dr. Zafar Chaudry, Seattle Children’s chief digital & information officer, and one of the sponsors of Lucy, for a presentation at the Healthcare and Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference. We discussed the hospital’s investment in a robust technology infrastructure to enable patient care, but also talked about the inherent challenges of managing the complexities of continual change in a clinical setting. It was only fitting that we also introduced the attendees to Lucy since she symbolizes the commitment Seattle Children’s has made to viewing every technology concept through a human-centered lens.

Lucy was created by Dr. Chaudry’s team to help hospital leadership understand the need for and agree to funding a digital overhaul of patients’ journeys. After bringing Lucy’s “current experience” to life for its executive committee, Seattle Children’s introduced “future” Lucy – with a single integrated electronic health record and an alliance of healthcare professionals circling around her as a hybrid in-person and virtual team. Her caregivers share information, collaborate and message seamlessly, and her parents understand everyone’s role and how they intersect. It was a compelling argument that was well received.

However, Dr. Chaudry knew that leadership buy-in was only part of what they’d need for success. The program would realize the greatest success with clinician engagement and alignment around a shared vision for creating an exceptional patient and family experience, and engaging his IT team in what they do best: technology implementation.

I was confident the Avanade team could bring a powerful and compelling change management component with a model that reflected Seattle Children’s core values:

  • Human-centered, to promote integrity and collaboration
  • Personalized, to demonstrate compassion and equity
  • Future-ready, to foster excellence and innovation

Seattle Children’s clinical stakeholders and support staff are certainly long on dedication, but they’re short on time and wouldn’t react well to binders and books. And what’s more, we knew that each care and service provider – doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, as well as those in non-clinical roles such as billing – would have different needs from the technology and processes, and therefore would require different messaging. We would also miss the mark without input from parents.

We have many well-tested tools in our change management toolbox from change readiness tracking to change network creation to training development, but one stood out as most important: personas. Creating a human-centered experience is in our DNA and expanding the idea beyond Lucy became core to the change agenda. For many of the hospital’s employees, seeing the patient experience end-to-end through the lens of each clinical function, and the role they could play in making the experience better, was eye-opening. They were energized and excited by the opportunity to co-create the personas that would inform how technology solutions were developed and implemented. What we gained through these discussions was priceless, allowing us to shape the technology, communications and training we would need to ensure adoption across the hospital.

As we earned the confidence and commitment of Seattle Children’s employees through our persona focus groups, we doubled down on this spirit of partnership by showing them our attention to detail: because surgeons don’t have the time to attend in-person training sessions, we created content they could digest a few minutes at a time; because virtual rounding can’t function without flawless connectivity, we walked every inch of the hospital floors with smart devices to test for Wi-Fi dropping issues; we made sure the equipment necessary to conduct virtual rounds wouldn’t weigh down the nursing carts to the point that nurses could hardly move them; we called our own support desk to troubleshoot their responses to questions; we created talking points for our project team and sent them to shift changes with treats to engage staff about the technology program and what’s in it for them (by persona, of course, and with the involvement of the hospital’s marketing team, to ensure that our tone and voice would be familiar to the employees).

Sound painstakingly intentional? It was, but in my experience leading organizational change events for clients around the world, this approach is imperative. Technology will almost always do what we tell it to do, but without the support of its users, these costly, resource-intensive initiatives are at risk. I’m proud of the #humanimpact that we were able to make by partnering with Seattle Children’s. And I’m sure Lucy is too.

Check out the full Seattle Children's success story to learn more.

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