An Introduction to Healthcare Strategic Planning

Strategic growth planning is a useful process for guiding the future of all types of organizations, especially hospitals and healthcare systems. If your hospital is seeking to grow but doesn't have a strategic plan in place, it’s time to start doing the valuable work necessary to create one.

What exactly is Strategic Healthcare Growth Planning?

Healthcare strategic growth planning is the process whereby a hospital or health system creates a strategy to reach a desired growth goal. A strategic plan identifies growth priorities specific to the organization and the settings in which it operates. It describes a strategic growth vision for what the organization wishes to achieve in the future. It can be based on revenue, market share, or another strategic goal. Lastly, a strategic growth plan establishes a road map of specific actions that are required to transform the organization’s current situation into the desired future situation.

It is important for a strategic growth plan to have data as its foundation. If growth is the objective, but on-the-ground intelligence about the hospital, healthcare system, patient market, population, or service area are not being utilized, then the plan is just a stab in the dark that likely won’t produce the desired outcomes.

Download the Entire 8 Steps to Successful Strategic Planning in Healthcare Guide

How to Make the Right Data-Driven Decisions

Within the healthcare landscape, change is constant. As a result, growth departments—whether they be strategic planning, marketing, business development, or physician relations—must make informed, data-driven decisions that can keep pace with the rate of change. Stratasan believes that data-driven decision-making is the most reliable and accurate way for leaders in healthcare to understand how they are capitalizing on their resources to make informed strategic growth decisions. Read more about data-driven decision-making in our DIKW pyramid blog.


8 Steps to Successful Planning

Healthcare professionals face a range of challenges each day. In order to be strategic, it’s crucial for healthcare leaders to take a step back from daily duties to examine the state of the organization and thoughtfully create a data-driven, strategic growth plan. Below are eight steps that can serve as a road map to successful planning.

Step 1: Update Your Organization's Mission, Vision, and Values

A mission is a statement that defines the final aim of the organization. A vision is an inspirational statement that presents what the organization will look like after the strategic plan has been implemented. An organization’s values are a set of rules and cultural principles that give the organization character and soul. If these already exist for your organization, review them thoughtfully and ensure they align with your growth goals. If they’re constructed in a way that could be inhibitive to growth, consider rewriting them to be more conducive to a growth mindset.

Learn more about updating your Organization's Mission, Vision, and Value

Step 2: Conduct a Business and Operational Analysis

It is essential that your organization examine internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats, and consider how each is helping or hindering system growth. This is typically done by conducting a SWOT Analysis.

At this stage, it’s helpful to engage stakeholders from across the organization. Including their perspectives will not only improve the plan, it will also help gain buy-in early in the growth planning process.

Step 3: Develop Strategic Options

At this stage, it’s important to review all possible strategies to help you achieve your strategic growth goals. Start by brainstorming a list of options. Does growth mean expanding a particular service line? Breaking into a new demographic? Marketing directly to consumers? Or does growth require a merger with, or acquisition of, other healthcare organizations?

After all of the options have been discussed, select a few that best correlate with what your healthcare organization wants its future to be. Remember that each strategic option on your list must be based on data-driven intelligence to be effective. Evaluating the current state of your organization, your market, competitors, and industry trends will help your organization select feasible objectives in Step 4.

Step 4: Select Strategic Growth Objectives

To be most effective, your growth objectives should follow the SMART protocol. Each objective must be Specific, Measurable (based on data), Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

  • Start by narrowing the list of strategies brainstormed in Step 3 to a shorter, more focused list of the most pressing strategic growth objectives.
  • Next, establish guidelines for how you will measure when you have successfully reached each objective.
  • Lastly, identify a timeline for when each objective should be achieved.

Once this step is complete, your organization has successfully created a strategic growth plan!


Step 5: Develop the Strategy Execution Plan

At this point, your strategic growth planning team must determine the most effective way to execute the strategic growth plan. The plan needs ownership at both the executive level and the staff level. Identify champions of the strategic growth plan at all levels of the organization and have them define what will motivate their teams to complete each objective. 

It’s important to include all verticals of your organization in this process; marketing, strategy, planning, and business development teams should all understand and support the strategic plan. There are opportunities all across the organization for strategic growth—make sure each team is aligned in their goals and doing their part to execute the plan.

Another consideration is whether or not you are equipped with all the in-house resources needed to accomplish your strategic growth initiatives. Should an outside partner with data-driven expertise, such as Stratasan, be hired? Stratasan’s Spark Services offers a diverse team of experts with specialized skills in GIS mapping, health analysis, and data handling, and is a compliment or extension to any hospital planning team. If your internal team is not equipped or to handle specific initiatives, an outside partner should be a part of your strategic growth plan execution.

Step 6: Perform Resource Allocations

Executing a strategic growth plan requires funding, staffing, and other resources to be allocated to each of your strategic growth objectives. If the resources don’t exist, consider revising the timeline for that objective or eliminating it entirely.

Alternatively, make the creation of those resources a part of the strategic growth plan. This might include adding external partners to help in areas such as data analytics, legal considerations, marketing, or financial matters.

Step 7: Arrange for Ongoing Plan Revisions

Once you’ve written a plan, achieved buy-in throughout the organization, and allocated resources, your organization is ready to execute your strategic growth plan! But before you consider your job done, remember that in today’s healthcare space, a strategic plan should never be considered a static document. In fact, it’s important for your plan be updated regularly. A nimble, flexible approach to planning is key.

Patient needs are continually evolving thanks to our fast-paced lifestyle, hyper connection to online media, and the unprecedented number of choices of providers and care options. Additionally, healthcare providers have access to nearly real-time patient data and can understand their patient population in a way that has rarely been possible in the past. 

An iterative planning process allows for adaptation as the year unfolds and ensures that your plans stay current and fresh. It includes ongoing results tracking so that teams can make changes as needed based on insights and findings. With this approach, the growth plan is never really complete. It’s flexible and ever changing because it course corrects in response to data insights, which are now available more frequently than ever before.

Step 8: Periodically Track Progress and Measure Success

A key factor impacting the success of your organization’s strategic growth plan is periodic and ongoing review.

Periodic and ongoing review go hand in hand with an iterative growth planning process. Regular reporting from all parties involved is a must—from the person responsible for each growth objective to the team in charge of implementing the plan. When deviations are identified, take action to get the plan back on track. If challenges are identified, it may be necessary to change the direction of one or more of the strategic growth objectives.

The Takeaway

Creating a strategic growth plan is crucial for a healthcare organization looking to successfully grow and increase influence within their service area. Without one, your system may be guided by the winds of the economy, government policies, or the many issues outside of your control. Your strategic growth plan ensures that everyone in your organization is working toward a clearly expressed growth outcome. It takes a strong, organization-wide commitment to create and execute a strategic plan. In the end, the growth your organization will experience through this exercise will be worth the effort put in by everyone involved.

New call-to-action