MGMA 2019: A physician-leader’s guide to strategic planning

October 17, 2019

A physician CEO gives advice on strategic planning for new physician-leaders

While traversing the pitfalls of transitioning from clinician to physician-leader, a common stumbling block can be creating a strategic plan, according to a talk given by Steve Quach, MD, CEO of CarePoint Health in Denver, Colorado, at the 2019 MGMA Annual Conference.

Building off his previous remarks about the importance of exerting influence instead of authority, Quach says one of the best skills a physician leader can possess is being able to create a strategic plan-and effectively implement it.

“The job of a leader is to take a number of unrelated initiatives and vectors of different employees going in different directions and use that process to align them toward a common vision,” he says.

Quach compared and contrasted practices that physician leaders should and should not do while creating a strategic plan. These include:

  • Committing the time and resources required and not succumbing to the pressures of other competing priorities

  • Employing a structured process and not trying to reinvent the wheel or do it all yourself

  • Involving the appropriate leaders and stakeholder and not involving too many or two few people in the strategic planning process

  • Using the strategic plan to define goals and guide decisions rather than wasting your time and effort creating a paperweight

  • Updating the plan regularly instead of falling victim to the pace of change

The last point is important, according to Quach, because as time passes and situations change the strategic plan can become less effective.

But even with these tips, Quach says there are still specific challenges for new physician-leaders who are building a strategic plan which include:

  • A lack of experience with strategic planning

  • Authoritative leadership styles may inhibit the sharing of ideas

  • A tendency toward short-term thinking

  • Clinical thought processes promote risk aversion which stifles change

  • Differences between clinical and administrative prioritization

  • Managing extroversion and agreeableness in the strategic planning process

Another challenge Quach identified is that new physician-leaders is the “obvious” trap of mission and vision healthcare.

“In many organizations that I have been in, the typical person thinks that we know our mission and vision is we’re here to deliver excellent care to patients,” he says. “Often the reality is, a really good mission and vision is not all about reiterating what we all do as healthcare providers.”

He says a good strategic plan is more about what kind of excellent care the organization sees itself providing to patients.