So, you’ve finished your plan. Awesome start! Your strategic plan is an important part of not only clarifying your mission and objectives, but also unifying your team and making your staff and patients alike feel valued.
Your strategic plan is a living document that will carry you through both tough times and growth periods and change as your environment, abilities and needs change.
It’s therefore important to follow up the original planning retreat with shorter evaluation sessions once per quarter to monitor progress toward achieving the practice’s objectives.
Your strategic plan should ultimately break down into bite-sized units that members of your staff — or outside contractors — can claim ownership of and implement with specific goals that can be easily measured. Every action item should also have an accompanying timeline to keep the plan moving forward throughout the year.
Ensure that every task assigned has an appropriate metric, or benchmark, to use to track progress on an ongoing basis.
If a particular task doesn’t seem to be working well toward a stated objective, it may need to be modified at one of the quarterly review meetings.
Continue to include as much transparency as possible in the process, so the full team is aware of what it is trying to achieve and why.
Let’s review some sample areas that you might be targeting as objectives and how you might go about structuring your timeline and metrics.
If your first objective is “to increase our patient base by 20% over the next two years,” you might outline a series of strategies to help bring you to your goal.
One strategy may be to “initiate a marketing program to make more people aware of our practice and attract new patients.” Beneath each strategy, you would outline a series of tactics to undertake that are measurable, and assign them to particular individuals. You may decide to assume the marketing function yourself, assign it to a staff member that is an excellent writer, or outsource the project to a professional. Your tactics for initiating a marketing program may look something like this:
Start and grow a Facebook page dedicated to the practice and make three posts per month about health news, office news, preventative care tips, etc.
Initiate a reminder program by mail or email that touches each patient at least once per year about scheduling a physical, lab test or procedure.
Taken from ArtworkbyKids.com
Promote friend and family referrals through office signage and semi-annual emails.
Of course, specific tactics will vary, depending on your practice’s needs and your own instincts about the best way to promote your business. You could have more tactics, or fewer — as long as they are manageable and not too overwhelming in light of everyone’s already hectic schedules.
The point is to make the goals you set achievable to keep the process flowing in a positive direction and avoid even a remote possibility of failure. If you think that one objective with one strategy and two tactics are all you can manage in a given quarter, you may not make as much progress toward your objective, but at least you will be moving forward.
You are also likely to develop financial objectives for the practice that you will assign to your business staff or an outside consultant. If your interest is in improving cash flow, for example, then there may be strategies and tactics you can implement to reduce accounts receivable, increase the number of patient visits per week, or tighten up your billing and insurance protocols. In this area, in particular, it shouldn’t be difficult to design a specific set of metrics to track with regular deadlines to meet.
Ongoing Competitive Research
As part of your ongoing strategic activities, conduct basic competitive research to better understand your business environment, industry news, and behavior of similar practices:
- Who are your major competitors?
- Are they local or regional?
- Are they growing and if so, in what areas?
- What types of marketing programs are they undertaking to attract new patients?
Sometimes, it’s hard to get a handle on this information. If you are lucky enough to have an employee that has joined you from another leading practice, by all means, get as much information as you can about your competitor’s “m.o.,” or modus operandi.
- How are they attracting new patients?
- What are they doing to make the practice run most efficiently?
- How do they measure patient satisfaction?
Getting inspiration from other practices can provide a great competitive advantage in the marketplace. You can also learn about competitors by regularly reviewing their websites, attending major conferences and networking with them, as well as tracking them on social media.
Budgeting for Change
In developing and implementing your strategic planning process, you may need to budget appropriately for retreats, facilitators, advertising programs, new IT systems and so on — the list will vary greatly depending on your practice size and specific needs. There is no one formula that will spell out how much to spend on any one component of your plan; rather, it will depend on factors such as your size, location, and competitive environment.
Focus instead on more meaningful statistics, like how much it costs, on average, to acquire a new patient or how many new patients call in response to a specific ad or offer.
And again, as your plan unfolds, modify, modify, modify!
Strategic planning means different things to different people and there’s no one right way to put together your plan. Your plan will evolve over time and may look nothing like the original just a year or two out.
As you go through your own planning process, it’s perhaps most important to ensure that it feels authentic — that your objectives are realistic and achievable, that your metrics make sense, and that your stakeholders are on-board with whole-hearted participation.