Aiming the Silver Bullet

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Aiming the Silver Bullet
Dennis A. Tribble, Director, United States

Application of technology to a process is likely to fail if the human elements of adoption are ignored.

The application of technology (like the application of any power tool) should change the way work is done; hopefully for the better. Human biases tend to resist this kind of change, especially when the objectives of the change are unclear, or when the fact that change is uncomfortable and may take a while to achieve is not acknowledged and properly supported.

In many healthcare settings, individual providers have developed social dominance based on their mastery of the current, if broken, system. Change is especially threatening to these individuals because it may limit, or completely eliminate their source of social power. Involving these people as agents of the change can often leverage their social position in the workplace and help overcome their resistance to the change.

Most of us equate habit with competence, and become uncomfortable when we must unlearn behavior and process that have become habitual. When the adoption of technology creates the need for learning new behaviors, some time is required to unlearn old behaviors, and additional support is likely to be required until new habits are acquired. Failing to recognize, and plan for this 'learning curve' can result in frustration and failure in technology adoption.

In healthcare, it is often true that people have strong ownership in current processes, even if they are 'broken' and will try hard to force technology implementation on top of those broken systems even if doing so will result in the loss of some (or all) of the benefits the technology is supposed to provide. The role of the vendor in this case is often to carefully lead the customer through the thought processes necessary to understand how best to use the technology they have just acquired. This process requires delicacy and tact, since the customer may well have great personal investment in the procedures that need to change with the implementation of the technology.

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