Be the change agent you wish to see at your health plan

Aug 6, 2019

8 essential skills every change agent needs to navigate the future of healthcare

Whether you’re already leading change at your organization or hoping to do so soon, most health plan employees need to be well versed in change management as the industry braces for rapid innovation. Becoming an agent of change at your organization requires the type of holistic thinking that the healthcare industry notoriously struggles with. 

Based on our own experiences helping leading health plans implement change, here’s a look at how stakeholders can cultivate the 8 skills necessary to navigate the changing landscape, identify opportunities for innovation, and lead others into the future of healthcare. 

Change agent: a leader who has the skills to navigate an organization through change management initiatives.

8 essential skills necessary to being a change agent:

1. Multigenerational influence

Unquestionably, health organizations successful in adopting change are embracing multigenerational influence in leadership (it’s even considered a competitive advantage). Representing all generations in leadership can help health plans respond to changes driven by upcoming generations, especially millennials

“The most successful companies will be the ones that let go of slow decision making processes and adopt a new talent base that is comfortable with experimentation, testing, learning — and even comfortable with failing,” writes Forbes. This cross-generational agility furthers a broader initiative of change management: culture. And culture is key to enacting true change says Becker’s Hospital Review.

2. Connecting change management to performance management

Healthcare has changed in scope and complexity in recent years, and reports indicate that errors – despite technology improvements – are on the rise. This leaves some to speculate that effective processes haven’t kept pace with rapid growth at health organizations. “The root cause of this organizational disease is not effort, but skill, specifically change management,” says Jim Molpus, Leadership Program Director at HealthLeaders. Molpus explains that in order to move the needle on change, leaders should embrace the facts when evaluating process vs. outcomes. 

3. Crisis management

Health plan leaders understand that reputation is important to consumers, but are we focusing enough on crisis management? In order to become the change agent your health organization needs, it’s vital to embrace the tenets of crisis management: communication, training, and preparedness. 

Leaders can train to proactively manage crisis by preparing for it. Organizations should implement a crisis management plan and incorporate it into change management initiatives. A focus on transparency can support crisis management. In Leading in a Crisis, authors Blair Sadler and Kevin Stewart posit that “leaders who promote and model transparent behaviors and instill a transparent culture in their organizations can use crises as learning and improvement opportunities.”

4. Appropriate technology training

Technology adoption can create stress and fear for employees, which is why it’s a good idea to for leaders to be fully trained in all necessary technology to guide easier changes in their organization. Hands on, ground-level encouragement can ease employees into higher usage rates. Keep in mind that change management requires constantly preparing for change – and technology is always improving. So technology training should be an ongoing, iterative process. Forbes Tech Council writes “it’s become impossible to separate business strategy from technological innovation.”

5. Insight into member satisfaction

To effectively lead change, we must be able to understand what drives member satisfaction. As more payers focus on member satisfaction, leadership should incorporate these initiatives into broader change management strategies. “While health plans generally are adept at managing the operational aspects of their business, a bigger challenge is addressing member expectations based on their experiences in other industries,” says HealthcareFinance

6. Awareness of new business models

Change agents should be aware of new business models – particularly evolving payment models and new technologies – that may affect the industry. According to a recent survey, about a third of health plan executives are bracing for major disruptions to business models. They believe that “new entrants, processes and technologies will upend current business models.” 

Anticipated areas of disruption include innovations in care delivery and refined member experience. Tracking proposed regulations and making other leaders aware of their potential impact is one way to ensure your organization can prepare for and quickly pivot as new business models arise. Payers may feel strained trying to anticipate and address every new business model, but they’re also poised to lead the change. 

“Health plans are in a unique position to drive innovation that will spread to each part of the healthcare ecosystem.”
Put on your cape. Your health plan may just save the healthcare system.

7. Entrepreneurial spirit

The willingness to take a risk and drive change is becoming an unwritten requirement for modern health leaders. This entrepreneurial spirit is marked by the following traits: 

  • Community-minded
  • Focused on advancement
  • Belief in oneself
  • Driven by “gut-feelings”

Being an entrepreneur is about “connecting the dots: those connection points of intelligence, wisdom, desire and ability that are innate to people,” writes Forbes. Though expected to find novel solutions and modernize, it’s difficult for health organizations to do so; the act of providing and delivering healthcare is different than the skills needed to drive growth through innovation. Entrepreneurial attitudes can prove particularly effective for health plans looking to bridge the gap and deliver change. 

8. Thought leadership

Connect with coworkers and establish yourself as an agent of change by embracing thought leadership, or the practice of becoming an informed opinion leader. In the age of social media, change agents can drive effective thought leadership through numerous channels. The practice of researching and informing others on industry-relevant topics can help leaders stay in-the-know on important topics as well as maintain impact and influence, while avoiding complacency

 “If leaders don’t feel comfortable with renewal and reinvention, they will begin to lose their impact and influence quickly.”



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