It is well established that the Physician Champion plays an integral role in the successful development and implementation of a healthcare IT project. Selecting the right individual to fill this role is key as they will need to wear many hats if they are to succeed. They will need to understand the technical aspects of the IT solution, as well as what operational and organizational goals the solution is intended to address, all while representing the needs of their fellow clinicians and translating how the IT solution supports and enhances patient care through the clinical workflows.
Without a strong Physician Champion to represent the clinician and be that bidirectional communication between the end-users and the technical resources configuring the software solution, (and the hardware it is delivered on), there is a definite risk that the end result satisfies no one and creates new problems. We are seeing that today in physician burnout where the solution delivered to the end-user fails to support them in their clinical practice because it did not take their needs in to account.
A strong Physician Champion can encourage buy-in from hospital staff, executives, and stakeholders by bridging the clinical and technical, and helping to fashion a technical product that truly supports patient care. Through focus groups to gather requirements, expectation management on the clinician and technical teams, encouraging their colleagues to participate in functional testing and provide feedback, they can deliver the collaborative approach needed to translate clinical needs in to a successful IT product and a successful implementation.
A strong Physician Champion takes advantage of this process, for they see this as an opportunity to build relationships that will support the successful ongoing use of the IT effort and perhaps lead to the identification of new IT opportunities. Through their bidirectional network, they:
In selecting or recruiting for this role, it is important to keep in mind that this individual is, first and foremost, the “physician” champion. They are charged with mastering an understanding of the software and/or program and on how the project is intended to support the Organization’s operational goals. They must be able to effectively communicate this to their colleagues and, through discussion with them identify what their goals of the project are, how they may align with or where it differs from the project, and work closely with them to develop solutions that can move the project forward successfully. While it may be helpful if they are tech-savvy or an early adopter, or have a strong understanding of the drivers of the business, these can be an impediment to their effectiveness if they do not keep their colleagues workflow needs in the forefront. To be successful in this role, it is critical to be a champion of others’ needs and workflows and needs and to put one’s personal desires on the back burner or the Champion will be discounted and ineffective.
We need only think about the recent events of COVID-19 and how organizations needed to pivot to Telehealth to support patient care. With strong Physician Champions in place, you truly could have an agile process where the relationships and communication channels they built over the course of the implementation can now be utilized to scale up, deploy, and refine the solution(s) your organization chooses to implement.