How Do You Get Clinic Staff Excited About Change? 7 Tips to Increase Buy-in

Sanjeev Bhatia

Sanjeev Bhatia
Juvonno Campus Mentor & CRO at Clinic Accelerator

Hey clinic leaders, Sanjeev Bhatia here, CRO at Clinic Accelerator. We all know change can be a battle cry in our clinics. New software? Vacation request forms? Even phone scripts – these seemingly simple upgrades can hit a wall of staff resistance. Implementing them might be easy, but getting your team invested is the real challenge.

This is where your leadership shines. In this guide, I'll share strategies, some I've honed myself and others gleaned from fellow effective leaders, to foster staff buy-in. These strategies will help you navigate change smoothly and build a more adaptable and resilient clinic environment.

Tip #1: Spend time on the philosophy (the why)

Too often, I’ve just given a clinic staff member a task, a project, or a new way of doing things and never took the time to explain the meaning of why we are doing it. Effective clinic management involves spending 80% of the discussion with them doing a deep dive on the why versus 20% going through how to implement it. I won’t move on to the process of the item until they can explain the meaning and why behind it to me.

Pie graph split 80/20 on how to spend time explaining change

Let’s take a simple case like the paper treatment plan. If you just give the template to a clinician, explain how to use it, train them on it, etc, all you’ve done is appeal to the logical side of their being. But, in my experience, people don’t make decisions based on logic; they make them based on emotion and justify them with logic. For example: “I’m going to feel young again and buy a sports car because I’ve never bought anything big for myself.” 

Back to the treatment plan. I’ll sit down with a clinician and explain to them my philosophy of using a treatment plan and how it will benefit them as well. In short, we are fighting a system that tells each patient you only have so much to spend on your health. We need tools like the treatment plan to get them to buy into their health, which means they will be more consistent with coming to their appointments and doing their home exercises. All of which will increase the probability that they will achieve the outcome they want. 

Now, imagine I spent 30 minutes or an hour just talking about how the treatment plan fosters patient buy-in. If the clinician buys into that philosophy, then having them use the tool is the easy part. Again to me, this is true when trying to implement any tactic, process, tool, template, script, etc. Investing the extra time into the “Why” and the “What” will be more effective.

Tip #2: Involve your staff in the change

No one wants to be given something they didn’t create and be told to use it. But, a staff member may not want to be involved in a lot of the work creating the tool, especially if they are already overwhelmed with their current work. I’ve found effective clinic management practices involve providing them with the tactic, tool, process, template, etc., and asking them to review it. Overall, it’s a lot easier and quicker for someone to edit or critique something than create it from scratch.

That is, what’s the one thing you would change? Add? Remove?

The second part of this equation is actually incorporating their feedback. Not incorporating at least some of their feedback can have a negative impact on their buy-in. For example: “Why give feedback on something when it doesn’t get used, or I never get updated on what you think of my feedback?”

Statistic graphic on the amount of employees that leave jobs when they don't feel heard

Not only will buy-in be less likely, but you’ve also created a rift in the relationship. In short, if you’re going to ask for feedback, be prepared to make changes based on it and thank them for giving you feedback.

Tip #3: Demonstrate the value to them

When asking for change (add/remove/edit), you must spend time explaining to the staff member the value and impact on them. It usually comes down to these three factors: time, headache, and money. If the change saves them more time, removes a headache, or makes them more money, or some combination of the three, the person will more likely adopt the change.

I like to use a simple value stack method. On a single slide, I list in bullet points all the ways it will be beneficial to them from a monetary and non-monetary perspective. The list is meant to be big, so it almost overwhelms them, giving the impression that they’d be crazy not to change. One key is to go through each value stack item one by one and validate that they agree with you. Ask yes/no questions like “Do you see the benefit of this?”, “Would you want this?”, “Does that make sense?” By the end of the discussion, they’ve said ‘yes’ seven to ten times so what is left to say ‘no’ to?

Tip #4: Include the patient 

It’s hard to pick one clinic staff buy-in method and say, ‘This one is the best.’ But, if there is one that would have the biggest impact on your clinic management strategy, it would be this one.

It’s hard to pick one clinic staff buy-in method and say, ‘This one is the best.’ But, if there is one that would have the biggest impact on your clinic management strategy, it would be this one. Make sure to discuss how the change will impact the patient. Regardless of role (owner, clinic director, clinician, office manager, front desk, marketing person, etc), everyone should agree that we do what’s in the best interest of the patient and their experience. By explaining how a change directly benefits patient care, you tap into a powerful motivator. 

If I have a one-on-one discussion with a clinician (say on their metrics, fall offs, caseload, treatment planning, etc), I make sure to have a third empty chair there, maybe with a stuffed animal sitting in it, to remind me to bring up the patient in our discussion. I was taught that it doesn't matter what the topic is when speaking to a staff member. It could be as small as changing the printer ink cartridge. Make it a habit to bring up the impact on the patient.

Tip #5: Avoid large team meetings

When rolling out a systemic change that involves something I expect everyone to start doing, I don’t like to have a team meeting until after I’ve had one-on-one meetings. I like to stack the deck in my favour before I stand up in front of everyone. I’ve made this mistake before, trying to explain the change I want to everyone at once. I end up feeling like I’m in a firing squad with questions and comments rolling in one after the other. In some cases, very fringe scenarios that are specific to the person get raised.

I’ve learned to ask for feedback about a change in one-on-one’s first. That way, when I get up in front of the team, I’ve already addressed the majority of questions with each person individually. I can spend more time explaining the details of the change, the impact on the patient, and reiterating the benefits to them.

Tip #6: Recruit internal influencers

When a new iPhone comes out, do you line up outside waiting to be among the first to get it? Neither do I. But Apple spends a lot of time and attention on these people—the people who write the blogs, do the vlogs, reviews, YouTube videos, etc. Why? Because those are the people who influence us, the general public. Apple is smart. They get the early adopters on their side, and those people influence us over time.

Use the same approach when managing your clinic. Get a couple early adopters. The people that always want to try something new, are new to the role, have the right personality and get them to try the change first. All other principles apply: spend a lot of time on philosophy, involve them in the change, explain the value to them, include the patient. Once the change is implemented, be sure to communicate the wins these early adopters are having and the impact it has had on them. 

People are more likely to adopt change if there is social proof from their peers or someone in the same role as them. There is no hidden agenda with these people, but if it comes from the owner there are already preconceived notions or maybe ‘baggage’. This is an inbound strategy for clinic staff buy-in. They will see and hear the success of others and come to you asking if they can try it. Or, at the very least, if you broach the change with them, you have real case examples from their peers. 

Tip #7: Be a cheerleader

As the change starts to take place or be tested, it’s important to voice the wins:

  • a result
  • a metric
  • recognize a staff member
  • share patient feedback

And, do it often, not seldom. Actually, overdo it! People need to know if they are winning. And if you’re not singing the wins from the rooftop, people will come to their own conclusions on how they think the change is going, usually the lowest common denominator.

According to research by Oxford University's Saïd Business School, 92% of workers are more likely to repeat a specific action after receiving recognition for it.

92% of workers are more likely to repeat a specific action after receiving recognition for it

Send a weekly ‘wow’ email, use a meme and put up a message in the staff room, Personally recognize someone, give out funny rewards. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it gets done, and done with sincerity and enthusiasm!

In Conclusion

Securing clinic staff buy-in for any change, big or small, is crucial for your clinic's success and growth. Effective clinic management involves investing time in explaining the philosophy behind changes, involving your team in the process, clearly outlining the benefits, and focusing on the impact on the patient. By doing so, you create a supportive environment where change is not just accepted but embraced.

Remember, it’s about more than just implementing new tools or processes—it’s about fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration. With the right approach, you can turn potential resistance into enthusiastic participation, driving your clinic toward greater efficiency and better patient care.

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