According to the Medical Journal of Australia, historical advances in Australia’s health care system are now under threat as our health system is stretched by an ageing population, the growing burden of chronic illness and the increasingly outmoded organisation of our health services. Specific challenges in the 21st century include finding sufficient trained staff to work in the healthcare sector (especially in regional areas), improving the quality and safety of health services, achieving the right balance between the public and private sectors in the provision and funding of health services and ensuring equity in health between the health of the best and worst off, closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and addressing the increased prevalence of mental health issues amongst young Australians aged 12 to 25.

Put simply there is a need for change in Australia’s health care system to ensure that every dollar we spend delivers maximum value. We need to do more with less, refocus health services from dealing with to preventing health problems, introduce patient-centred models of care, adopt new technology as an enabler of change and reform our medical education models.

So if we know what the issues are and we know what changes are needed to improve health care outcomes, why then do we often find it so hard to implement change in a meaningful way?

Only significant cultural change can ensure that the desired changes can be effectively implemented and – more importantly – will be sustainable over the long term. Some of the challenges any healthcare organisation may face when attempting to embed significant change include resistance from healthcare professionals to new systems, processes and technology, conflict between management and medical staff, a lack of engagement from staff who may be suffering from ‘change fatigue’ and difficulties in aligning the goals of doctors, nurses and other health professionals with the changing needs of patients.

Working with the Four Rooms of Change® can help to increase productivity and efficiency, encourage greater creativity and innovation, reduce conflict and build a more inclusive culture. The tools generate a common language for group dialog about the experience of change and the need for change which leads to greater staff engagement and commitment to agreed actions. That’s real-time cultural change with tools that work.