Where do models for change management, improvement and implementation meet? A systematic review of the applications of change management models in healthcare

Reema Harrison, Sarah Fischer, Ramesh L. Walpola, Ashfaq Chauhan, Temitope Babalola, Stephen Mears, Huong Le-Dao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
822 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The increasing prioritisation of healthcare quality across the six domains of efficiency, safety, patient-centredness, effectiveness, timeliness and accessibility has given rise to accelerated change both in the uptake of initiatives and the realisation of their outcomes to meet external targets. Whilst a multitude of change management methodologies exist, their application in complex healthcare contexts remains unclear. Our review sought to establish the methodologies applied, and the nature and effectiveness of their application in the context of healthcare.

Methods: A systematic review and narrative synthesis was undertaken. Two reviewers independently screened the titles and abstracts followed by the full-text articles that were potentially relevant against the inclusion criteria. An appraisal of methodological and reporting quality of the included studies was also conducted by two further reviewers.

Results: Thirty-eight studies were included that reported the use of 12 change management methodologies in healthcare contexts across 10 countries. The most commonly applied methodologies were Kotter's Model (19 studies) and Lewin's Model (11 studies). Change management methodologies were applied in projects at local ward or unit level (14), institutional level (12) and system or multi-system (6) levels. The remainder of the studies provided commentary on the success of change efforts that had not utilised a change methodology with reference to change management approaches.

Conclusion: Change management methodologies were often used as guiding principle to underpin a change in complex healthcare contexts. The lack of prescription application of the change management methodologies was identified. Change management methodologies were valued for providing guiding principles for change that are well suited to enable methodologies to be applied in the context of complex and unique healthcare contexts, and to be used in synergy with implementation and improvement methodologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-108
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Healthcare Leadership
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • healthcare change
  • change management
  • transformation
  • implementation
  • improvement


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