A common misconception is about the nature of strategic planning. Strategic planning is NOT a mere brainstorming session aiming to generate ten ideas to look into next. Strategic planning IS meeting to synchronize business initiatives with potential product strategies aiming to inform an execution plan . The value in strategic planning lies in its ability to reduce product-related risks and increase product-related value. In healthcare, this leads to improvements to patient care and access.
Strategic planning is more than coming up with the ideas, aligning them to a goal, and executing upon it. Strategic planning involves delving into many other aspects of the business, some of which include:
In the healthcare industry, strategic planning is essential for resource management, adaptability, and long-form goals. For some organizations, especially in the current climate of staffing shortage, assembling an adequate team to engage in the strategic planning process is a challenge. As a result, many seek outside partnerships and collaborations to provide support and bridge the gaps in their human capital resources.
Partnerships and collaborations in strategic planning come in various forms. A common partnership is with nearby universities. These partnerships offer mutual benefits by providing the resources and opportunities the other is looking for:
Another avenue for partnerships and collaborations are with an outside, third party organization or thought-leader. These partnerships are valuable due to the following…
What is the goal of strategic planning and is it worth the investment? Oftentimes, the individuals ideating, authorizing, and executing new innovations do not represent the ultimate end users in the hospital system. Consequently, this misalignment is the reason many digital innovations struggle, including difficulties in system integration, user adoption, and even the completion of projects. This happens especially once innovators realize they’re developing the wrong product.
In a time-sensitive industry, it’s essential to avoid wasting time or introducing invaluable processes that divert hospital staff from time spent on patient care. This includes preventing the implementation of tools that aren’t necessary or ensuring that the necessary tools implemented are developed correctly. With the correct tools and implementations setup, hospitals can manage their staff and resources more efficiently.
The goal of strategic planning is to confidently define product requirements in direct alignment of business requirements to produce the maximum value and minimum risk. This leads into the importance of strategic planning in healthcare.
Any action item that absorbs already limited time and resources must be of importance, especially in a hospital environment. The unique importance in healthcare lies in the nature of the industry, which is to support and save lives. In turn, this means any new digital tool or integration must add value to the current care process to support this critical objective. This is true of many hospital implementations but is essential in ERPs (enterprise resource planning), EHRs (electronic health records), and LIS (laboratory information) systems.
In today’s healthcare environment, where demand for healthcare outweighs the resources available, the significance of strategic planning is emphasized. Proper tools and procedures in place have the potential to optimize the utilization of the existing resources. This can fill resource gaps, alleviate burnout, enhance quality of care, and reduce costs. Emphasizing the importance of thorough strategy and planning leads to improved system integrations, streamlined data management and visualization, enhanced nursing and administrative solutions, and more.
Through past engagements with healthcare organizations, WynHouse has defined eight aspects of strategic planning to produce a complete execution plan. To help illustrate these steps, let’s walk through an example of ABC Hospital’s journey as they partner with WynHouse to develop a digital tool aimed at reducing clinical burnout due to manual documentation. This roadmap will show you how the Strategy and Planning phase appears during an engagement:
When investing in new technology amidst an environment with budget constraints, it’s meaningful to understand the financial impacts of successful implementation. For ABC Hospital, implementing cost-saving products that not only benefits the patients, but also reduces the hospital’s operational cost is a measure of success. During this stage is when that financial impact is determined.
In healthcare, cybersecurity of new digital products involving sensitive medical information is paramount. Additionally, there are the compliance requirements in healthcare. Conducting a comprehensive analysis on the technical compliance and security requirements inform the product’s design and ensure it aligns with the operational governance functions required to maintain security and compliance. For ABC Hospital, this means having a formidable data center and policies in effect where doctors and staff may easily access records while data remains secure for the patients.
Digital products offer the ability to enhance data within a hospital system. Data-driven insights have the power to enhance decision-making, diagnosis, and forecasting. During this phase, the team will analyze existing data within the hospital’s systems and products to create a vision for collecting, visualizing, and utilizing data in accordance with the business strategy.
Once alignment between clinicians and developers is achieved, alignment between the product and business objectives comes next. During this phase, the team gathers and prioritizes business requirements with the product design. This completes the ‘alignment triangle’ between clinicians, the hospital, and the development team.
During this phase of strategy and planning, the teams collaborate to define an engagement strategy that is best suited to deliver value to the organization. This strategy ensures the development methodology is aligned with business goals, fostering a cohesive, value-driven approach.
Once the research and alignment is gathered, it’s time to define the long-term vision for the digital product. This includes mapping out its functionality, setting key milestones, and establishing priorities. The roadmap provides a path for the product's development that supports the hospital’s evolving needs.
As mentioned above, one of the key pitfalls in digital product development and integration is the misalignment between the end-users and innovators/developers. In hospital systems, clinicians don’t want another fancy digital product that adds to their workflow, they want one that solves the current day-to-day problems they’re facing. Understanding their requirements, needs, and pain points is essential in ensuring the product design and functionality genuinely solves their challenges. This stage connects end-users with developers, ensuring the product addresses real clinical needs.
The final step in strategic planning involves an in-depth analysis of existing systems, technologies, and processes. This analysis informs the technical product design in accordance with the hospital's goals. It also helps uncover unknowns to accelerate development and mitigate risk.
Upon completion of each stage in strategic planning, ABC Hospital will have a clearly defined execution plan. This plan aligns the new product with the desired state of the business and minimizes risk and maximizes value to the organization.
Like a manufacturer managing its many moving parts to a process or an accounting firm monitoring the status of their client’s tax return, healthcare must also track their patients. What distinguishes innovation in healthcare from other industries is the human element.
The human element, which centers around the care of individuals, is an intuitively distinct aspect of healthcare. Patient care and experience remains the forefront of most priorities within healthcare systems and among the workers who make them up. As mentioned, emerging technologies hold the potential to alleviate burnout and compensate for the lack of human resources in a hospital system by handling the routine, mundane tasks for healthcare staff. Nurses are not data specialists or delivery personnel for patient information between hospital systems; their role is to care for others. Ultimately, the core mission in healthcare is to care for others.
A secondary area that differentiates healthcare strategic planning from other industries is the ability to accurately forecast future needs. One example of this is with compliance tracking and the most recent pandemic. During a major health crisis, compliance protocols are on everyone’s mind, but at that point resources are stretched too thin to innovate and integrate a new digital tool into current workflow processes internally. Bon Secours Mercy Health partnered with WynHouse to deploy a cost-effective Hand Hygiene and Personal Protection Equipment compliance tracking tool to take the burden off clinical staff and improve data-driven decision making. Through this collaboration, BSMH and WynHouse reduced tracking time by 80% allowing more time to be spent caring for patients; consequentially improving the quality of care and patient experience. This same digital tool has since matured to include other compliance protocols.
Knowing where exactly to start innovating is often the hardest part of innovation. A strategic plan helps to isolate potential areas of improvement. By creating SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound) goals, during the beginning of strategic planning, success can be observable no matter the size or duration of the goal. Every hospital will likely require similar but unique end-goals that shape the process of strategic planning.
Strategic plans create blueprints for the innovations that occur within the healthcare industry. For example, by combining roadmapping, data and insights, and technical analysis a hospital can take a top-down approach to tackling automation of its data systems with AI. For Mercy Health, we utilized compliance analysis, user research, and engagement strategy for PPE compliance. Through critical analysis and a combination of strategic planning methods many problems become opportunities for hospitals.
The combination of technology and open-source AI creates an exciting glimpse as to what the future may hold. Understanding and adapting to new technologies is part of the process when it comes to innovating within the healthcare sector. Shifting care from administrative tasks to patient access is just one of many approaches that can be taken from utilizing strategic planning and understanding the existing framework.
By taking a multi-step approach, complex goals are broken down into more attainable options. Innovation can be incorporated as part of the solution after the goals are mapped out. For healthcare institutions, it is important to maintain an emphasis on long-term and short-term objectives simultaneously. Once completed, hospitals will be more adaptable for the next objective and so on. This ensures the long term success and growth of an institution through: improved patient care, cost reduction, improved compliance, risk management, and ultimately a competitive advantage.
The mission of almost every hospital can be summarized in a simple phrase “Striving for greater patient care and access.” Strategic planning at its core, is not just brainstorming, but creating and acting on a plan. Through careful consideration and leveraging outside collaborations, hospitals have the ability to innovate at a time when shorting staffages are ever-present. From utilizing new technologies to staying adaptable, innovation and strategic planning are tied together. Strategic planning is crucial for driving innovation and the end-goal of every hospital; to care for others.