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Effective Strategic Planning Requires Physicians

News  |  By Philip Betbeze  
   December 01, 2017

Physicians have ultimate control over costs and revenue. That's one reason why physician integration, often a goal for intrepid health systems, should start with their participation in the strategic planning process.

This article first appeared in the December 2017 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Physician practice acquisition has become a key tactic to help healthcare organizations retain control over market share and extend their control over the care continuum.

But investment in physicians as employees doesn't mean these organizations have necessarily integrated doctors' input into the long-term strategy for growth.

That takes a little more thought and planning. Hospitals and health systems that have not integrated physicians into management through hierarchy or through governance will pay for that inattention over time.

Physicians won't beg to participate; they have to be recruited, encouraged, and even promoted, but smart CEOs make every effort to make their participation critical to the development and execution of the traditional three- to five-year strategic planning process.

Caregivers drive the plan

Atlantic Health System, a six-hospital health system based in Morristown, New Jersey, tries to focus its strategic planning not on the number of hospitals it has or the number of beds, says Brian Gragnolati, its president and CEO.

Instead, he wants strategic planning to focus on the number of the 4.9 million people in its service area with whom AHS interacts—around 750,000.

Planning begins with how the health system, which is broken up into five regions, interacts with those patients through its integrated delivery system, which includes two ACOs, with a third launching this year. About 2,700 physicians are part of those ACOs.

"Once we understand how we're servicing those areas, we develop overall strategies for each of those market areas," he says.


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Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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