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MTS Blog: User Adoption - The Five Stages of Grief

While there are many in the medical device industry who eagerly embrace new technology to address the increasingly complex challenges of inventory management, there are those who are reluctant to change.  These people often cling to antiquated and inadequate processes because familiarity provides comfort.  The eventual realization that the system everyone knows (and loves to hate) must be replaced is akin to the five stages of grief.

DenialDenial is the first stage of grief.  While this stage helps survive the loss, the world at large becomes meaningless and overwhelming.  Inventory management stops making sense.  What is this new software?  Can it possibly do everything that’s needed?  How will life change if this software is adopted?  Will inventory management be streamlined or will the software make processes more complicated?  And, what was wrong with the old way?  In this stage, the questions are many and answers seem insufficient.

Anger Anger is a necessary stage in the healing process, and below all the anger is real pain.  With new inventory management software, anger takes the form of a series of accusations.  This was supposed to be easier, but nothing is where it’s supposed to be.  Passwords don’t work, screens freeze, and the software doesn’t match business needs.  Those against the move to new software offer example after example of how the old system was better.

BargainingBargaining revolves around exploring the “what ifs” of what happened and efforts to rewrite history.  When adopting new inventory management software, medical device professionals propose a combination of systems.  Why not use some of the old processes with some of the new?  Disbelievers often ask for additional features before the system is even integrated.  Those anxious about software adoption want more time to consider their needs and how they might be incorporated into the new business order.

DepressionAt some point in the grief process, the present reality comes into focus.  Medical device professionals come to the understanding that the new inventory management system is the way forward, despite their reservations.  They are still down about the loss of the old, but they begin to think about how the new software might save time and resources.  Towards the latter part of this stage, the thinking moves from reluctance to a glimmer of hope. 

AcceptanceAcceptance is not about glossing over the loss; acceptance is learning to live with a new reality.  Adoption of a comprehensive inventory management system delivers powerful results, including a 2-4% boost to the bottom line.  This increased profitability comes from improved sales efficiency, advanced inventory control, increased operational effectiveness, and enhanced financial accountability.  After reluctant adopters move through the stages of grief associated with losing their habituated processes, they recognize the benefits of the new system.  They begin to rely on the software to more effectively do their jobs.  Suddenly, they recognize that the newly adopted, fully functioning, comprehensive inventory management system represents an unobstructed path forward, and they start to reap the big benefits of a streamlined system.

Poking fun at reluctant converts by comparing their foot-dragging to the five stages of grief is meant to honor the pain they associate with change but also to welcome them into the brave, bright domain that sophisticated technology offers the medical device industry.  While manufacturers, distributors, and others in the med device field might be slow to embrace advancements, there’s a very good reason.  Those in med device have long lived on the cutting edge of innovation in an effort to develop new products for patients.  But, now is the time to invest time, energy, and resources in technology that can offer increased efficiency so that more effort can be devoted to research and development rather than the chasing of paper and products.