Exploring and characterizing healthcare champions who have successfully promoted adoption of new initiatives within the healthcare delivery system to promote and enhance uptake of evidence-based interventions
George, Emily Rebecca
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BACKGROUND: Champions are widely recognized as playing a key role in the successful implementation of evidence-based interventions within the healthcare sector; however, little is known about which characteristics and skills enable them to play that role. Furthermore, previous studies have measured only individual champion’s responses to personal attributes without incorporating input from other observers. A mixed methods study was conducted to 1) identify, analyze, and group the characteristics of champions who have successfully promoted adoption of new initiatives within the healthcare delivery system, 2) understand when and how champion-like characteristics emerge during the implementation process, and 3) describe how these characteristics are developed to more quickly advance champions within the healthcare setting. METHODS: Data were collected and analyzed from healthcare champions (n=30) and their colleagues (n=58) from eleven countries using a survey. Every champion and a subset of colleagues (n=14) also participated in in-depth interviews. Correlation coefficients and descriptive statistics were used to explore the relationship between responses to survey items; Chi-squared tests and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to compare the differences. Thematic content analysis of qualitative data explored champion-like characteristics, their emergence, and how their skills were developed. Once results emerged, characteristics of champions were categorized using the Transformational Leadership Theory framework. RESULTS: Champions tend to inspire their clinical teams to adopt new interventions within healthcare using a leadership style that naturally facilitates trust, as well as motivation to work towards common goals. This leadership style is similar to what is exhibited by transformational leaders; therefore, champions can be identified, categorized, and developed using transformational leadership theory. Champion emergence within the implementation process is facilitated by supportive leadership and high levels of autonomy. Additionally, there was a high proportion of agreement between champion and colleague survey responses; however, champions were more likely to underrate their skills and abilities to instigate change. CONCLUSION: Champions exhibit the same characteristics as transformational leaders; therefore, transformational leadership theory — its frameworks and associated tools — is useful for identifying and developing champions. Future work should focus on how organizational leaders can facilitate the growth of emerging champions, as this enabling environment determines the fate of both the champion and the evidence-based intervention.