Blog Post

Published March 18, 2019

Championing Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning doesn’t just happen. 

It’s not a conversation most people want to have. They find it uncomfortable and awkward. 

Yet, the advance care planning (ACP) process is critically important to ensuring people receive the care they want during a time they cannot speak for themselves. ACP promises a better quality of life when facing serious illness and end of life care.   

For healthcare systems, effective ACP improves quality of care, patient satisfaction and utilization of services. It’s a win-win: patients get the care they desire, and healthcare providers deliver high quality care.  

Unfortunately, ACP still does not occur as often as it should. 

How can your healthcare organization achieve follow-through on your ACP quality initiative? Change champions are the answer.

What is a Champion?

Icon of person holding a trophy.

“Product champion” is a term traditionally used in marketing. The American Marketing Association defines product champion as “a person who takes an inordinate interest in seeing that a particular process or product is fully developed and marketed.” A product champion is committed and able to influence a product’s success.

Similarly, in healthcare, champions are individuals within an organization committed to promoting change and adoption needed for successful implementation of initiatives. These “change champions” help move projects through the phases of initiation, development and implementation.

Change champions have proven to be key to the success of patient safety initiativespromoting Magnet culture, and pressure ulcer reduction programs, among other quality improvement projects within hospitals and other healthcare facilities.  

Why are Champions Important?

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, approximately 70 percent of strategic initiatives fail. 

study published by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found “change champions—both project and organizational change champions—are critical players in supporting both innovation-specific and transformative change efforts.”

When it comes to managing change, people are the most critical resources, supporters, barriers and risks. Buy-in from within an organization is necessary to successfully implement a strategic initiative. The best way to garner overall buy-in is through change champions. 

Who can be a Champion?

Icon of 6 people in a group with one larger an in the center.

The champion should be a well-respected leader, who has strong communication and interpersonal skills and can influence others to practice evidence-based care. Being recognized as credible by their peers and senior management is vital. 

To be effective, champions need to take personal ownership of the initiative or quality improvement project. Champions also need to have proper training, resources, and authority.

Champions can (and should) come from different levels of a healthcare organization

  • Executive champions – senior leadership 
  • Managerial champions – managers of clinical departments or units
  • Clinical champions – front-line clinicians, including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals (read this article about how nurses facilitate ACP)

Ideally, an ACP champion team forms, with each champion leveraging their position and networks, facilitating and reinforcing each other’s efforts. 

What does a Champion do?

Icon of person at podium with three people in the audience.

The role of an advance care planning champion consists of four key activities:

  1. Educate peers about the initiative, why it’s important, and how to initiate and participate in the process. 
  2. Advocate for the initiative by using positive messaging to convince others to adopt change and defending it from critics using an evidence-based approach.
  3. Build relationships with those directly involved in carrying out the advance care planning initiative to facilitate follow-through. 
  4. Navigate boundaries, real or perceived, between professions and between units and departments within the organization in order to bring everyone together in support of the initiative.

Ultimately, your change champions work together to build enthusiasm and motivate others within the organization to make your ACP initiative happen. Looking for more ways to breathe life into your ACP initiative? Read this article

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