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Strategic planning: Build a lasting competitive advantage at your medical practice

Medical Economics JournalMay 2020 Edition
Volume 97
Issue 9

Creating a strategic plan and thinking strategically are not about doing more. They are about focusing how you spend your time so that you are more effective in reaching your goals and getting to where you want to go.

Practices need to do strategic planning

Creating a strategic plan and thinking strategically are not about doing more. They are about focusing how you spend your time so that you are more effective in reaching your goals and getting to where you want to go.

That said, no physician practice has an unlimited amount of time, money or resources. Strategic planning can help you make the most of the resources you have, allowing you to have more enjoyment in your work while you are doing it.

Here are eight reasons for getting your team together for a strategic planning session.

1 Vision
You will create a clear vision for what success looks like in the future. If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there?

2 Priorities
You’ll identify priorities for the short and medium term. You can’t do everything at the same time, so focus on what needs to be done now and then do it well.

3 Alignment
You’ll get alignment and buy-in on direction and strategy. Having these conversations will move your team from implicitly being on the same page to explicitly being on the same page. The clarity will energize the whole team.

4 Identify Challenges
You’ll create an opportunity to talk about key issues facing the business (competition, changing trends, etc.). You want to ride the waves, not get smashed by them. Being reactive throws off your plans and takes your eye off your goals.

5 Direction
You’ll create a clear road map for the rest of the organization. Your staff wants to know where the practice is going and how they can contribute. An engaged staff is 20% more productive than one that is neutral (or, worse, disengaged). Your staff wants to win and this is how you can help them.

6 Open Communication
You’ll create space for people to share what’s going on with them and what they want to see as the future of the organization. It will open lines of communication and improve teamwork.

7 Empowerment
You’ll empower others to take on tasks that will move the practice forward. As a physician owner, that means less firefighting and more focusing on what you do best: patient care, leading and executing.

8 Values and Culture
You’ll create the culture, values, and behaviors that you want to foster within your practice. When your values are clearly articulated, your team will understand what you expect from them on a day-to-day basis. Culture and values are the glue that keeps a strategic plan together.

Strategic planning doesn’t need to take a lot of time away from the practice. The focus and the results will speak from themselves.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, we conducted many strategy discussions with physicians onsite.

Recently, we have shifted to doing these discussions virtually. They key is to have an outsider facilitate the meetings to avoid confirmation bias. Furthermore, the facilitator will be able to ensure your meetings stay focused, allow everyone time to share their thoughts, and ultimately leave you with a clear plan on how to move forward.

Medical practices which consistently apply a disciplined approach to strategic planning are better prepared to evolve as the local market changes and as the healthcare industry undergoes reform. The benefit of the discipline that develops from the process of strategic planning also leads to improved communication. It facilitates effective decision-making, better selection of tactical options, and leads to a higher probability of achieving the physician owners’ goals.

Nick Hernandez, MBA, FACHE, is the CEO and founder of ABISA, a consultancy specializing in strategic health care initiatives for physician practices. Send your practice management questions to

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