Strategic planning: The key to long-term success in medical groups

By Nick A. Fabrizio, PhD, FACMPE, FACHE
November 2, 2017
Body of Knowledge Domain(s):

A successful strategic plan provides direction to medical groups and often lays the ground work for determining where the group is going, whether it will expand in terms of services and providers, who it might affiliate or align with, when it will implement key technologies or initiatives and a host of other critical issues. Many medical groups do not see the return on investment that creating a strategic plan can have since the process is not measured in days, weeks or immediate dollars.

An Oct. 31 MGMA Stat poll found that 61% of respondents said their organization has a 12-month strategic plan, while 34% said theirs did not and another 4% responded unsure.

A strategic plan consists of both short-term and long-term objectives. A 12-month strategic plan is short term in nature and should provide direction to the group in accomplishing certain objectives over a 12-month period. There are tremendous benefits to developing a strategic plan, yet some medical groups have difficulty in developing such a plan.

Besides the barriers of cost and time, developing a strategic plan also requires a firm commitment to the process. Physician leaders and medical group administrators must devote time and commit resources to the strategic planning process, which includes finding a qualified and experienced facilitator to direct the process. The facilitator’s role is to provide experience in gathering data about the practice, including the internal and external environment, interviewing key stakeholders and helping the group develop strategic initiatives with timelines, action plans and budgets. The benefit of using an outside facilitator is that they have no relationship to internal individuals or pet projects and can be more objective than internal individuals.  

Facing the future

Effective strategic planning will help prepare physicians for the changes that affect today’s medical groups and the entire healthcare sector. Medical groups should dedicate appropriate resources to make the strategic planning process part of their culture. The resources needed to plan effectively for the future include political awareness, financial resources, expertise in facilitating the strategic planning process, commitment from the leadership team and the ability to track and execute plans.


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Nick A. Fabrizio, PhD, FACMPE, FACHE, principal, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, MGMA

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