Medical Practice Strategic Planning

As you are well aware, physicians and their practices face new and complex challenges. Among these are the repercussions from: the emphasis on reducing the cost of health care while increasing access to care, the downward pressure on fees by third party payors, the increased competition among physicians, and the movement toward strategic alliances. And those are but a few. Where practicing quality medicine once assured a practice’s success, it longer does. Building, or even just maintaining, a medical practice has become more a function of the practice’s business acumen then its resident medical skills. This trend can only be seen as likely to continue, and, in that they must now more than ever view themselves as a business. A practice and its managers can only be seen as wise to look to the techniques, processes, and systems that have been developed and refined by the business community at large for some time.

Formal strategic planning, by its very definition, has been one of the critical processes employed by physician practices both large and small to deal with the issues of tomorrow. Changes typically occur much too quickly to allow long-term survival if you are only being reactive. By contrast, strategic planning provides a proactive, orderly, systematic review of the organization and the environment within which it is – and anticipates – operating. It involves the development of best projections of how that environment is likely to change, the identification of what external factors are most likely to drive the change, and an assessment of the conditions within the organization that may impact its ability to adapt to the change.

Once physician management understands that it is in its best interest to conduct a formal strategic planning session, the next critical step in the process is to hire an outside facilitator. Without question, a qualified facilitator will bring both independent information and perspectives to the planning process and related discussions. If properly experienced, the facilitator will concentrate on seeing that the right questions are asked, that everyone’s best ideas are drawn to the forefront, that the process remains focused, and that the ideas that emerge get articulated in a way that will be most likely to make a difference for the practice. A facilitator can help overcome all of the reasons mentioned above as to why strategic planning does not occur often enough. This is one of those times when a doctor should not try to “heal thy self.”

The Strategic Planning Process

 As a Facilitator, I aid and assist in the following five steps to the physician strategic planning process:

1. Physician and staff interviews

2. Internal environmental analysis

3. External environmental analysis

4. The strategic planning retreat

5. Creation of the Action Plan