Take strategic planning back to basics

To find long-term solutions to hospital problems, healthcare providers must take a fresh approach to strategic planning, according to well-known healthcare reform expert Paul Keckley in an opinion piece published in Hospitals & Health Networks Daily.

In most hospitals, the strategic planning process "fails to address the toughest questions or encompass the broader set of opportunities and threats in the new normal," writes Keckley, former executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in Washington, D.C. Most hospital leadership are boards with community, physician and management representation, with the occasional industry expert, he writes. These teams review plans for the next year on an annual basis, based on shifts in demographics, regulations and economic and clinical trends.

Meetings often emphasize quality of staff and care, as well as size and scale in larger health systems. "But it seems to me, given the complexity of the economic, capital and regulatory climate for hospitals of all stripes, strategic planning needs to go further," he writes.

Most hospital strategic plans have two major flaws, according to Keckley: insufficient facts about the hospital's positioning and "an inadequate assessment of the scope of services necessary to long-term sustainability and success." To address the former, he writes, hospital boards should know the answer to questions such as:

  • What weaknesses will competitors take advantage of?

  • How much unnecessary care does the hospital deliver, and who delivers it?

  • Which physicians are the most efficient, with the best outcomes?

  • How well does the hospital coordinate patients after discharge?

To more comprehensively assess the healthcare landscape, hospitals should be able to answer questions such as:

  • What is the consumer health strategy?

  • How can the hospital consolidate local human services and health programs to improve costs, community health and coordination of care?

  • How does the hospital plan to directly engage employers and assume responsibility for employee costs and outcomes?

  • What makes the hospital the most attractive prospect for local physicians considering alignment?

To learn more:
- here's the opinion piece