Change management at ZNA and GZA hospitals

Aug 09, 2023
  • people
  • healthcare

In 2024, the Antwerp-based hospital organizations Ziekenhuis Netwerk Antwerpen (ZNA) and Gasthuiszusters van Antwerpen (GZA) will officially become one. Ziekenhuis Aan de Stroom (ZAS), as the joint hospital network is called, will be the largest in Europe, connecting 14 hospital sites and 8,000 healthcare professionals. To ensure smooth collaboration, a common electronic patient record or EPR has been implemented. The joint ZNA and GZA project team asked delaware to take charge of change communication and training.

  • Client: Ziekenhuis Aan de Stroom (ZAS), the merger between Ziekenhuis Netwerk Antwerpen (ZNA) and Gasthuishuiszusters van Antwerpen (GZA)
  • Challenge: Support the transition to a common Electronic Patient Record (EPR) for over 8,000 healthcare professionals across 14 hospital sites
  • Solution: A well-coordinated and creative communication and training plan, from strategy to execution

The challenge: an intense change journey

The healthcare sector in Belgium is evolving rapidly. To tackle the numerous challenges in the market and in society, many hospitals are merging into ‘hospital networks’ and focusing on digitization and (technological) innovation. ZNA and GZA, two hospital organizations located in Belgium’s Antwerp region, are no exception. Both hospitals have been collaborating closely since 2020 and will officially join forces under the name ZAS by 2024.

In light of the upcoming merger, ZNA and GZA decided to implement a common electronic patient record (EPR). An EPR – also known as an electronic health record (EHR) – is a method for digitally storing patient information, medical records and notes. It allows healthcare professionals across different hospital sites and other locations to securely exchange relevant patient data, collaborate more effectively, and deliver high-quality, value-driven and safe patient care. 

However, technology alone is no guarantee for success. To reap the full advantages of the EPR, it needs to be fully embraced by the target group – in this case, healthcare professionals from both ZNA and GZA. “Everyone involved, including the project team, all workgroups and a wide range of end-users, are subjected to a very intense change journey,” says transition manager Ellen Van Diest. “We quickly realized that change communication would be critical for success.” 

Another essential aspect of transition management is, of course, training end-users in the new ways of working. "One of the main challenges we faced here were the different levels of digitization between GZA and ZNA, and the need for process standardization. For instance, while GZA had been using a customized EPR for years, the challenge at ZNA was mainly the transition from paper and various applications to a single, overarching platform.”

Everyone involved in the common EPR project is subjected to a very intense change journey. We quickly realized that change communication would be critical for success.
Ellen Van Diest, Transition Manager at ZNA

The solution: together to the top of the mountain

By the numbers

14 hospital sites2.6 million patient records
8,000 doctors and healthcare professionals trainedOne of the ten largest EPD implementation projects in Europe

“To make this happen, we needed a partner who could collaborate with both the GZA and ZNA communication departments to develop a communication strategy and plan,” Ellen continues. “They had to be capable of independently and creatively executing it, while also ensuring coordination and alignment.”

After considering multiple options, Ellen and her team reached out to delaware. delaware’s Change team proposed to integrate all transition and communication activities under the already existing 'Together to the Top of the Mountain’-theme, which the GZA and ZNA communication departments had developed jointly. During the EPR’s roll-out phase in 2022, relevant information was shared via various channels, including newsletters, guides, in-person information sessions, notifications, and even two digital radio shows. For two years, delaware’s Change team played a crucial role within the communication and transition department of the project team.

During that time, delaware also became an important partner for the training team. Two consultants supported the in-house trainers in their journey to educate doctors and nurses on the new system and how to use it. "They coordinated all end-user materials, both in terms of content and design, coached colleagues in their trainer roles, and ensured quality and timely delivery of the necessary materials. This was undoubtedly not an easy task, given the short time frame and the need to master the EPR itself as well."

The result: a top-10 EPR implementation

The scale of the project was enormous. The implementation project is now listed among the top 10 largest EPR implementations in Europe. In total, 2.6 million patient records were migrated to the EPR, and more than 8,000 doctors and staff members were guided through this digital transformation process and trained in the harmonized processes and the new system. 

delaware quickly gained the trust of both organizations and delivered very comprehensive and high-quality advice and results. We still use the templates and materials they created.
Jan Witters, Director of Quality and Innovation at GZA