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Healthcare strategic planning ready for post-COVID comeback

Aug 09, 2021

During the early chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare organizations put strategic planning on hold.

Understandably, long-term planning was pushed down the priority list, but, as we emerge from the pandemic, organizations are showing renewed energy to examine strategy — ready to face the new normal of the healthcare landscape.

Here are some considerations to weigh when evaluating your strategic planning:

Evaluate pandemic decisions

Every provider needs to look back at the pandemic and note what was quickly put in place. Then assess what didn’t work and should be discarded, along with identifying what should be kept and possibly upgraded.

During the pandemic, caregiving saw a big change by embracing a remote environment. As lockdowns made in-person visits increasingly difficult, remote visits became a normal part of the patient-provider relationship.

Now, organizations have a track record to study and see how well they rolled out telemedicine. Within your organization, it can be helpful to survey your teams and grade how well services operated remotely.

  • Were there initial stumbling blocks in adopting telemedicine?
  • What worked during the pandemic?
  • What was lacking? What would’ve optimized virtual care?
  • Are there technology upgrades that are needed?
  • Was security infrastructure strong enough?
  • Does security meet compliance requirements?

Communications are critical during a pandemic, but teams must be able to communicate effectively at all times. Staff need to coordinate internally, as well as externally with customers and patients. Electronic medical records and the organization’s telehealth platform are vitally important resources that must be accessed in an instant. Pandemic-specific questions will help you assess how well your organization adapted to the pandemic, and which adjustments will be needed for the future.

On a larger scale, a more complete self-assessment will deliver more clarity for your organization’s overall big picture.

Four steps to start your strategy review

Your people will give you valuable insights to chart what’s next for your strategic planning. Conducting a system-wide survey as your team comes out of the pandemic is perfectly timed and will yield actionable intelligence.

  1. Set aside time to collect data. Really get a sense of what your organization looks like pre- and post-pandemic. By understanding what worked pre-pandemic and comparing it to current operations, you can determine which successful initiatives should remain, and which necessary changes have been revealed. Announce that all teams are needed to provide feedback. Involve them and let them know their intelligence on this subject is valuable and will help plan the future of your organization.
  2. Gather information with comprehensive surveys. Take an assessment of how your people feel about the organization. Ask for their thoughts on changes made since the pandemic and how they affect operations. What has changed in day-to-day operations? What is working? Has quality slipped in any areas, and if so, why? Have changes affected the provider-patient relationship? This assessment should be far-ranging and include the executive team, all employees, the board, stakeholders and others.
  3. Compare survey results to current written strategy. After collecting all of the interviews, responses and feedback, an organization can identify what is no longer valid and what needs updated. This will help your organization get a picture of today’s truth, instead of what it looked like before the pandemic.
  4. Engage in the process. The three steps above need to be completed before new plans are enacted or new initiatives get the green light. Some organizations may be tempted to revisit older priorities once considered mandatory—before the pandemic put everything on hold. However, those priorities may no longer align with the organization’s goals, given the pandemic’s impact and how it changed everything in the healthcare landscape. Now is the time for a fresh assessment.

Topics to cover with strategic planning

Topics your healthcare organization can discuss during an assessment can include:

  • Are we addressing generational differences? Do senior patients engaging in telemedicine get the proper support from us that they need?
  • Do we have the correct access points across all demographics and all generations?
  • If located in a rural area, do we have the bandwidth to support optimized telemedicine? If there are gaps, which technology options are available to ensure continuity of service?
  • Do we have gaps or blinders in our technology and tools? Should we bring in experts to run an assessment and spotlight vulnerabilities and potential critical failures within our system?
  • How does physician demand look for our organization? Are there other staffing concerns?
  • If our organization, for example, closed down a hospital wing or exam room because of the pandemic, what should we do now? Is it wise to reopen or keep it closed if demand is no longer there?
  • How do capital investments affect our long-term planning? What is our appetite for capital? How much debt can we take on?

After the organization-wide surveys and self-assessments discussed above, your organization’s next step is to bring in a team of experts. To help create the best strategic planning possible, our team at Wipfli specializes in strategic planning for healthcare organizations. Listed below are some of the ways we can help you.

How Wipfli can help

Wipfli provides strategic planning expertise that is unique: We have experience professionals in strategic planning, capital planning and facility planning all on one team. This provides you with a holistic approach to planning. We provide you with analysis, data and research. This integrated approach gives you the overall picture of your healthcare organization to better plan for the future.

Beyond strategic planning, we can support you with board governance and training. After the pandemic, you may find board cohesion to be especially important as you prepare for what’s next for your organization.

Healthcare leaders tell us it’s helpful to speak with outside experts — meaning those who are not invested in the organization and do not have an agenda. We specialize in having honest, sometimes difficult, conversations with healthcare leadership with the end goal of charting your future success. To plan a consultation with our team of healthcare strategic planning experts, contact us and schedule a time to talk.  

Author(s)

Robert H. Zondag, CTP
Senior Manager
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Nicholas E. Smith
Principal
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