Practice Points: Strategic Planning

Edition: March 2010 - Vol 18 Number 03
Article#: 3395
Author: Judy Capko

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Practice Points, by physician practice management expert Judy Capko. It is her belief – and ours too – that the more education sales reps receive on the issues facing their customers, the better prepared they are to provide solutions. Her emphasis is on helping physicians build patient-centered strategies and valuing staff’s contributions.


It is easy to understand why many physicians aren’t interested in strategic planning. Some of them have never done it and some just don’t see the need. They have enough on their minds just trying to keep the practice on firm ground, let alone think about what should be done a year from now. In my opinion, they are missing out on a powerful opportunity to protect and guide their future. The medical clinics you work with might need a little encouragement and stimulation to understand the value of strategic planning.

Why have a strategic plan?

The medical practice environment is so complex and changing so rapidly that a practice must have a strategic plan in order to survive. The larger, busier and more complex the practice, the more critical this becomes. It’s reasonable to expect that each practice is faced with different issues within the practice and in the community that are affected by the decisions the practice makes and how well they prepare for the future.

What is involved?

The technical elements of the strategic plan start with gathering demographic data about the community, the competition and the practice. This includes analyzing both objective and subjective information to better understand the practice’s strengths and weaknesses, explore opportunities and identify potential threats. Once this has been accomplished, a clear picture emerges that will guide leadership in developing realistic goals and planning strategies to accomplish them.

If the leadership team is on the same page, the staff will get on board. If the staff gets mixed messages, the plan will be compromised. Think of the practice as belonging to everyone that works there – they have a vested interest in its success and will feel the impact of decisions that are made. Without everyone’s support, the practice is likely to experience unexpected problems or poor results. Frustration mounts and there is a tendency to give up.

Of course, new challenges are always emerging on the scene. Preparing for this relies on a careful investigation of demographic and competitive factors that present either an opportunity or a threat. Perhaps you can help your clients understand this better, since you most likely work in an equally competitive environment.

What if there is no plan?

Without a plan clinics and ambulatory surgery centers may not be prepared for growth or unexpected circumstances. They will not recognize the opportunities and return on investment of major purchases that improve their market share or help them become more profitable. There’s a chance they will be blind-sided, because they didn’t see a potential threat and take proactive measures to overcome it and protect the practice. This could result in eroding your market share, causing a decline in revenue and practice morale. If the practice experiences these types of changes there is a tendency to hit the panic button and a solid foundation can quickly feel like quicksand.

The strategic advantage

Strategic planning provides a blueprint for the practice to follow and get it where it intends to go. It will result in better decision-making when it comes to buying products and services. You can certainly help facilitate this for your clients and build a stronger partnership.