Change Agent: Physician Champion – Clinic Level

The Physician Champion Blueprint

This section outlines the AMA support plan for physician champions who concentrate their efforts on clinic level change and transformation. This is intended to be a living document to reflect the ongoing development of content and approaches. For questions and feedback, please contact

Evidence for Physician Champions

Physician Champions are key change agents in the Alberta Primary Care and Health Neighbourhood transformation journey. Where many inpiduals working in the primary care system can choose to engage as a change agent, by the very nature of their role Physician Champions are change agents, often partnered with Practice Facilitators to achieve meaningful improvement.  Please see the accompanying literature summaries Evidence for Physician Champions and Evidence for Physician Champions and Practice Facilitators Working as a Dyad.

There is strong evidence that physician champions positively impact the transformation we seek in health care.  These impacts include:

  • Demonstrated influence on the engagement and buy-in of their peers for an innovation
  • Increase the likelihood of provider implementation of an innovation
  • Improved quality of care
  • Help change the culture of the organization and increase its capacity for change

A local research study published in 2019, Scaling Up - A Principled Approach for Primary Care Transformation in Alberta, describes how to innovations like the Patient’s Medical Home to scale.  Foundational in the study is the Diffusion of Innovations theory, which is a longstanding body of literature across many industries, including health care.  The study focuses on a particular phenomenon referred to as the “valley of death”; the point innovations commonly fail to spread to the wider population.  To take an innovation to scale, the valley must be bridged so the tipping point can be reached.  This transition requires engagement of most the early majority, who tend to think differently about change compared to innovators and early adopters who successfully demonstrate the innovation.

A number of characteristics were identified amongst early majority physicians when taking on new ways of working.  

  • Prefer and are more willing to take up change in small incremental steps
  • Are open to change but will not "swim upstream"
  • Typically need the idea brought to them by someone they know and trust
  • Are open to trying evidence-based changes that positively impact patient care and/or clinical operations
  • Value support that is easy to access when needed
  • Tend to need help to “see the bigger picture,” e.g., how the improvement they’re working on is connected to other pieces that feed into the PMH vision 

Physician Champions, working alongside Practice Facilitators, can win over the early majority by speaking a language they understand through addressing the characteristics head on.

With the strong and growing evidence for Physician Champions as a lever for transformation, the AMA commitment to supporting these change agents continues grows along with it.  

Key Definitions

Health Transformation Workforce (AMA working definition)
The health transformation workforce are practice facilitators and physician champions with the defined role and skill to work with community care practices to help them with their incremental transformation toward a Patient’s Medical Home integrated with the Health Neighbourhood.

Physician Champion (AMA working definition)
A physician who sees the intrinsic value of the health care transformation approach and actively engages their peers in this work.  Physician champions (PCs) are often early adopters of new approaches to practice change and influence others to participate in these changes.  Successful physician champions are characterized by being persuasive, credible, and relatable.

Physician Leader (AMA working definition)
A physician who has been formally engaged to inform, educate, consult with, and empower peers and system stakeholders by exhibiting a strong commitment to the vision for change. A physician leader should demonstrate a clear vision for change and health system transformation using evidence based principles.