By Dana Jacoby

Strategic planning has become a fashionable term in the healthcare profession over the last 10 years. Many healthcare entities now emphasize strategic planning over long-range planning, yet the difference between the two is not immediately clear.

Formulating a strategic plan and thinking strategically are not just about finding innovative ways of tackling an ever-increasing workload. The point is to focus on how you spend your time. After all, every physician practice has finite resources. Strategic planning can help you make the most of these, giving you more satisfaction from your work.

The Difference Between Strategic Planning and Long Range Planning

Strategic planning tends to place a stronger focus on strategies (in other words, how the practice will realize its aspirations) while long-range planning puts greater emphasis on determining the vision.

The former includes measurable objectives which are realistically attainable but also promise to move your business up a gear. Short-term goals (such as annual targets) don’t apply here. The intention is to project much further into the future — but in an orderly, systematic way. Practices must be responsive to the evolving needs of patients.

Importantly, practices need to develop a reliable basis for monitoring progress, including the regular evaluation of results and impact. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some physicians have taken the opportunity of reduced clinic hours and lighter patient load to plan their new business initiatives.

Planning in Times of Crisis

It is notoriously hard to plan in a crisis, and forecasting five years ahead is tricky at best — unless a practice has full confidence that it will exist next year and that most of its prominent staff and physicians will still be around. Leadership also needs time and space to plan. The current pause in outpatient care provides a rare chance to re-engage.

The actual strategic planning itself shouldn’t demand too much time of your practice. In the age of Zoom, it’s easy for strategy discussions to take place virtually. The key is to have an outside third party expert oversee the meetings, in order to remove confirmation bias. They can also ensure that your planning meetings stay on point.

A third party can play the role of moderator, making sure that all participants have adequate time to share their thoughts. The ultimate goal is to leave practices with a clear plan of action. You will be more thoroughly prepared for reform or local market changes, and well equipped to turn your planning skills into a lasting competitive advantage.

Why Bring In a Consultant?

The constantly changing healthcare landscape can make the provision of quality patient care a real challenge. Fortunately, Vector Medical Group is on hand to lend our experience. We provide objectivity and can serve as a ‘sounding board’ of sorts to assist you in the process of developing your own strategic plan.

If you feel your practice has been blown off track recently, we can help you with the recovery process. However, it must be your plan, as you will be the individual responsible for executing it. Vector Medical’s role is to guide you toward a living strategic planning process that will power your practice to where you desire it to be.

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