Top 5 Leadership Strategies to Implement Change in Healthcare

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review discusses healthcare change management and how organizations and the entire system is challenged by the impact of COVID-19. There is some suggestion that “Many aspects of how U.S. health care has historically operated, including some elements of the fee-for-service business model, were the very things that left us vulnerable to the crippling impact of Covid-19 on our systems of care.” The same article insists that there is no going back to business as usual. Furthermore, “Building this new reality requires accelerating the positive transformations we have already made, undertaking some fundamentally new ones, and determining which of the activities we have stopped that we should not resume.”

Leadership Strategies for Effecting Healthcare Change

From their conversations with 20 CEOs at a variety of healthcare organizations across the U.S., Becker’s Hospital Review has come up with the following five strategies for how to implement change in healthcare:

  1. Integrating a Healthcare Organization in Both a Horizontal and Vertical Direction

    The leadership of an organization truly has to work together as a unified team with shared goals and operating principles. As changes cascade vertically, they can occur as part of a systemic overhaul, affecting everyone in the organization equally. No one needs to feel left out or exempt.

  2. The CEO as Change Agent

    Acting as more than a capable administrator, this leader has to embody the transformation. He or she must be a change agent who “can win the ‘hearts and minds’ of employees, physicians, the community and a diverse array of stakeholders.” In addition, “The CEO and his or her team must think broadly, entertain unfamiliar and often uncomfortable frameworks, operate well in ambiguity, set a high bar for performance and demonstrate the core values that underlie action.” Here’s a HealthStream blog about effective healthcare leadership styles.

  3. Focusing on Culture as a Strategic Initiative

    Healthcare organizations that are looking to transform themselves must make culture a priority. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, “An increasing number of hospital CEOs are hiring outside expertise to guide them through a multi-year process of culture change, starting with aligning the C-suite around goals, values, process and commitment.” Leadership-directed transformation strategies in healthcare often focus on culture.

  4. Altering the Executive Team to Reflect Desired Change

    Patient-centric care may call for a different mix of leadership strategies in healthcare across positions and skills, as well as for new executives who are adept at the analytical and interpersonal sides of managing caregivers. As Becker’s Hospital Review puts it, “Analytically, they must understand the dramatic shifts taking place in the industry and grasp the many implications for business and operations. Relationally, they must forge partnerships, establish trust and implement change within the organization and with strategic partners.” Listen to a HealthStream recorded webinar about transformative leadership.

  5. Decide What Is Most Important for the Organization and Focus There

    Even as they approach transformation efforts, healthcare organizations are nevertheless tasked with the complexity of continuing to provide care. There’s always the risk that caregivers and leaders at all levels may burnout due to the intensity, the diversions, and the stress involved. It may be a good idea to them to seriously consider what regular efforts and processes can be stopped. Becker’s Hospital Review suggests that care organizations “sharpen the focus on what is important” and “reinforce strategic priorities, culture, metrics and focus on the patient.”


Becker’s Hospital Review, “Reinventing Healthcare: 5 Strategies for Successfully Leading Change,” N.D., Retrieved at https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/reinventing-healthcare-5-strategies-for-successfully-leading-change.html.

Slotkin, J., Murphy, K., and Ryu, J., “How One Health System Is Transforming in Response to Covid-19,” Harvard Business Review: June 11, 2020, Retrieved at https://hbr.org/2020/06/how-one-health-system-is-transforming-in-response-to-covid-19


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