Super Hero Change Agent

How Patientco Culturally Incorporates Change Management

By Maria Abernathy

If you have read our blogs for a while, then you know Patientco takes a different approach to challenge the status quo around a patient’s financial experience at a health system. This includes building a team of change agents to help Patientco become a disruptor in the healthcare payments space.

Change agents play a vital role in pushing an organization forward when faced with new competition, regulations, market shifts and well…changes.  We have witnessed changes to our patient population that we serve at Patientco. Most consumers now contribute more toward their healthcare costs, paying on average $10,348 per year.

However, for most organizations, incorporating change agent behavior is not always embraced with open arms. Oftentimes, organizations only bring in change agents or recruit internal change agents when there is an acute crisis that needs to be corrected. That’s not what we wanted for our strategy at Patientco. We wanted to think about things differently, so we created a program to ensure that we have effective business strategies that aren’t based on a jarring, acute need, but instead are muscles that we continuously strengthen.  We’ve incorporated business practices that empower all team members to be effective change agents toward our long-term vision of “empowering health systems to focus more on patient care and less on patient payments.”

This idea of building a “strategic muscle” rather than having knee-jerk reactions is reinforced in a Forbes article by Glenn Llopis titled, “Every Leader Must Be A Change Agent Or Face Extinction.” In it, he states, “Change management has become a much bigger, more interwoven part of the overall business fabric – an embedded leadership requirement that plays into everything that we do, every day, and how we go about getting things done, regardless of hierarchy or rank. In the end, every leader must be a change agent.”

Every team member is a leader at Patientco and that means every team member must become a change agent.

Here are some of the business practices we’ve incorporated over the years at Patientco to strengthen our “strategic muscle.” For you cross-fitters out there, think of these as burpees for business strategy:

  • Strategic and Operational Plan Visibility
    • Everyone in the company has access to Patientco’s annual strategic and operational plan. Everybody! Our strategies are a change management plan driven toward specific, measurable outcomes. Everyone can view the plan and understand how their key initiatives and projects drive results for Patientco.
  • Transparency of Progress and Purpose
    • We use a green, yellow and red methodology (yes, I realize it’s not super scientific, but, hey, it works!) to help identify areas that need support. We make it very clear to our project owners, marking an initiative “red” or “yellow” is not necessarily a bad thing and does not signal failure. It actually means, “Attention! We need help to make this right!” When leaders and management are not transparent about a change management plan and its progress, it becomes more difficult to align resources to execute on the plan effectively. Our teams are most motivated when they fully understand the impact that their work could have the greater company. We call this understanding the “why” behind the strategy.
  • RACI Diagram
    • With a smaller company, it’s important for everyone to feel connected to the plan, but sometimes if you receive communication about plan content it becomes confusing to know whether any action is required of you, the individual. For this reason, we have incorporated the RACI diagram for all key initiatives. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. This ensures that the receiver of information always knows what is expected of them. They could be responsible for the action items, accountable to the whole project, consulted due to your subject matter expertise or just informed. At minimum, all team members are informed of each key initiative.
  • Remain Open, Candid and Honest
    • Throughout the year, we must be brave when determining which areas of the plan should be changed or canceled to reach our end goals. At the end of the year, we put our brains together and attempt to understand which strategic initiatives will drive the company forward in the next calendar year. As the year begins and progresses, sometimes we obtain new data and new insights. As a leadership team, we have to be brave to cancel initiatives that are no longer deemed as effective. Sometimes we may add new initiatives to the list that may open the door to other opportunities.  It seems obvious when you say it out loud, but after you’ve kicked off a project and allocated resources it can be difficult to redirect people to other, more worthwhile projects. It can be tempting to keep that project moving forward to see what might happen, just in case. However, we achieve our best work when we focus on the right things and prioritize them. This shields our team from burnout because they know their work isn’t just busy work. Their contributions will move the company forward in the right direction.
  • Creative Innovation
    • Sometimes whiteboard markers and crazy ideas create the best initiatives. We gather everybody in the company together each month to be creative and solve business problems. These business problems may not require immediate attention, but could be a long-term solution for our clients. Sometimes there is an agenda and other times it involves posing questions for a group discussion. Whatever the format is that month, this approach has led to some interesting proofs of concepts, many of which have been incorporated into our business.

Those are some of the business practices we have incorporated at Patientco that keep us laser-focused on our mission and vision. These practices allow us to step back and think about traits we need our leaders and our team members to embody to fully execute on our change management plans. Each year, we embrace the company’s new strategy in a big way and accomplish bigger goals than the previous years.  Remember what Glenn Llopis said, “Without strategy, change is merely substitution, not evolution.”