In June, the MGMA-ACMPE released the results of a questionnaire that ranked members' most pressing practice management challenges. In this edition of "Practice Makes Perfect," we'll tackle No. 18 on that list: leading development of an organization's strategic plan and its implementation.
Effective strategic planning will help prepare physicians and their medical groups for the myriad changes expected in tomorrow's healthcare environment. Very few health systems and business leaders would argue about the value of a strategic plan. It can add a path and purpose to medical groups, but it's often challenging to find a clear direction.
Why is it difficult for medical groups to develop a strategic plan?
Many medical groups may not see the return on investment that creating a strategic plan can have, especially since the process is not measured in days or weeks. Successful strategic plans provide direction to medical groups and often lay the ground work for determining where the group is headed, whether the group will expand its services and providers, with whom the group might affiliate or align and when it will implement key technologies, among other things.
Developing a strategic plan requires the entire medical group to make a firm commitment to partake in the planning process and established strategies. Physician leaders and medical group administrators will need to devote time and resources to pre-strategic planning, strategic planning and post-strategic planning activities. These steps are necessary to understand where the group is now, where it wants to go and how it plans to get there.
What’s the best way to plan for our future?
When embarking on the strategic planning process, it helps to seek input about the group from staff and providers. In the past, to gather feedback, I’ve designed written questionnaires for staff and providers to complete, which has been especially helpful in groups with many providers.
Some guiding questions to help address your organizational needs include:
- What’s the ideal size of our practice? Do we want to grow? How large?
- Should the group develop formal relationships with other medical groups, hospitals or insurance companies?
- What impact does our size have on our group’s success?
- What impact does our size have on the hospital/health system and with other medical groups?
- How do our plans impact our recruitment and retention strategies?
- Do we have sufficient resource data to make intelligent decisions?
- Are capital resources adequate to achieve optimum size?
- Do we have the leadership team (physician and nonphysician) to lead our divisions?
- Do we allocate the necessary time for strategic planning activities?
Once you have a clear perspective on the direction you’re headed, set aside time for the actual strategic planning facilitation or retreat. Make sure to include board members, managing partners, executive committee members and the practice administrator, but do your best to limit the number of participants to 15. This will help ensure that you have a productive strategic planning session. And set aside plenty of time to be thorough—devote an entire day or evening session to this critical group process.
Don’t forget to set measurable objectives in the process. This way, your group can look back in a year or two and revisit how far you’ve come and whether you’ve achieved the many things you set out to accomplish.
While it may be challenging to assess the practice and pinpoint a clear direction for its future, strategic planning can help assess where you are now, where you want to go and how you plan to reach your goals.
MGMA Healthcare Consulting Group