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Escalate Growth through Strategic Planning (Part 2)

Gabrielle DeTora, for HealthLeaders Media, March 12, 2010

Strategic planning begins with forming a process of regularly scheduled meetings with executive, physician, administrative, service-line director and functional leadership. But in order for those meetings to be successful, structured systems for compiling and reporting internal and external data will be necessary.

Using nonlinear methods such as sophisticated modeling; scenario studies; financial analytics; operational, primary and secondary research; and knowledge management systems will keep the strategic planning efforts focused and knowledge-based. Information is imperative. We explored the importance of having a long-term vision, conducting an internal and external environmental assessment, a critical issues analysis, and how to begin the strategic development process.

Now, having a better understanding of the regional environmental shifts and competitive factors will help identify barriers to success. Competitive information has not been introduced before this phase because it creates too much temptation for hospital leaders to become distracted from the long-term vision of what "should be" by the pressure to react to immediate competition.

Secondary Research
Secondary research will take a close look at healthcare trends, shifting dynamics and best practices. I recommend site visits for this, which will provide a clear understanding of where your competition and affiliates stand in the marketplace. This research should encompass:

  • Competitive analysis
  • Clinical quality
  • Service offerings
  • Competitive media spend
  • Share of voice
  • Competitive advertising
  • Competitive service offer set, awards, key differentiations
  • Competitive positioning strategy and messaging
  • Market trends
  • Marketing audit

Primary Research
Primary research gathered through data analysis, executive interviews, and secondary research will undoubtedly lead to important questions—and will likely expose differences of opinion. Ultimately, your hospital will need to create a strategic plan based on servicing all of its stakeholders. To determine the most effective approach for your business, you need to go right to the source by conducting quantitative surveys to your consumers, physicians (referring and non-referring) and employees; then conduct a GAP analysis on differences between your target audiences. You may want to follow up with the qualitative focus groups of each audience to glean further understanding as to why certain responses were chosen and how your hospital may reinforce or change those opinions or behaviors. Primary research encompasses:

  • Consumer research
  • Physician research
  • Employee research
  • GAP analysis
  • Cross-tab analysis

Once the data analysis is complete, executive interviews will reveal subtle issues not uncovered in the data, including political issues, cultural dynamics, physician alliances, as well as answers to questions developed in the data analysis phase.

Strategic Service Line and Cross-Functional Teams
After the strategic planning team is fully aware of competitive, political, clinical, financial and operational issues creating barriers to achieving goals around the critical issues, the next step is to form specific service-line teams to divide and conquer the strategic planning process. Each team should have executive and administrative representation, as well as service-line-specific representation with physicians, nurses, director/managers and community leadership.

Each team should work together to analyze data, provide opinion leadership, set direction and be champions of building organizational buy-in and support. This is where the tactical work around "how are we going to get there?" is really conducted.

If your health system has support service departments with individuals dedicated to specific service-lines, such as a marketing department with individual strategic planners and marketers dedicated to women's health and other service lines, then those individuals would serve on the service line teams. Penn Medicine, for example, has a highly integrated, cross-functional marketing department with teams dedicated to specific service-lines. They have established a planning structure that features deep integration with service line teams on an ongoing basis.

If your hospital has smaller support service departments that service the entire health system, then it would be best to form a cross-functional team of finance, marketing, information technology, human resources and other support services to work with each service line team. This team's job is to answer important questions and conduct scenario studies for service line teams to make important decisions on strategy and tactics. This stage dips into the realities of what it takes for an organization to execute—essentially: what is it going to take to get the job done? If the service line determines executional barriers are too high, they may need to reconsider the overall strategy. As Stephen M. Case, a director of Time Warner and the former CEO of America Online stated, "A vision without the ability to execute is probably a hallucination."

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