What challenges is Australia’s healthcare industry currently facing?

By Anthony Blaney - December 6, 2019

In discussing the key challenges healthcare organisations are facing, three CFOs from Victorian public healthcare organisations, highlighted shared challenges at a recent Health Finance Management Conference, including:
  • The rapid pace of technological developments: There’s a constant need to be up to date with the latest technology to continually improve patient care and outcomes, increase organisational productivity and improve information flow.
  • Changing demographics: Australia’s growing and ageing population has presented new challenges, including increasing rates of obesity and chronic disease, placing increasing demand on Australia’s healthcare system.
  • Analysing data: The potential for big data to transform the healthcare industry can’t be underestimated. There is recognition of how big data will improve decision making and information sharing amongst medical practitioners; however, the industry is slow to change.
  • Cybersecurity: With healthcare data breaches on the rise, there’s a growing need for healthcare organisations to be more proactive in protecting against cyber-attacks, especially given the significant amount of sensitive information stored in hospitals’ networks.
  • Patient experience: There’s increasing demand from patients for more sophisticated, convenient, transparent, affordable and personalised healthcare services. As a result, healthcare organisations must deliver more patient-centric business models.
  • Attracting and retaining talent: As the healthcare industry continues to change, attracting and retaining the right talent remains a challenge. The more attractive the employee value proposition (EVP), the better placed an organisation is to attract the right talent.
  • Employee engagement: Leading a strong, engaged workforce during times of change can be difficult, and organisations must ensure employees feel like they are part of the change.

What challenges are Australian public healthcare organisations facing as they implement change?

The panellists noted that while professionals across healthcare organisations recognise and understand the need for change to address industry disruption, there are industry-wide challenges that make change slow and difficult to implement. At an organisational level, the key challenges healthcare organisations face when implementing change include funding restrictions, time constraints, managing planning and investment, ensuring adequate levels of executive support and fostering a culture that is open to change. Further, the size and scale of healthcare organisations can make it difficult to effectively plan and implement change from a central point of responsibility, making the role of an external change manager increasingly valuable. This is particularly important when an organisation lacks the internal resources and experience to effectively deliver a change management program.

How can organisations be proactive about effectively implementing change?

Approximately 80 per cent of change management programs fail, not only costing organisations valuable resources, but it also limits an organisation’s ability to be adaptable and change-ready in the future. An external change manager provides an independent point of strategic guidance and works as a trusted partner with all levels of an organisation to provide continuous support throughout all stages of planning and implementing a change program.

A change manager will ensure all parts of a change program are effectively delivered by planning and delivering strategic communications, managing resistance and building leadership and change agent capabilities. This is particularly important in the healthcare industry, where time and resource availability is an ongoing challenge. Therefore, making the investment in a well-planned change strategy will mitigate the risk of a failed change initiative and wasted resources.

The healthcare industry is facing a range of challenges from the pressure of rapidly changing technology, the threat of cyberattacks and a nation that is increasingly reliant on quality healthcare. These challenges and the impacts of these challenges in the coming decade makes effective change management programs increasingly important. Investing in engaging an external change manager will ensure these programs are strategically planned and aligned with expected project outcomes, allowing healthcare professionals to adapt to change to continuously improve patient care.

  • Lack of experienced internal resources to deliver change.  Organisations not seeing the benefits of properly executed change etc.
  • Managing resistance, building leadership and change agent capabilities in others to support the change.
  • Making an investment in a proper well planned change strategy will mitigate the risk of the initiatives failing.
  • Strategically planned, aligned with the expected project outcomes.

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