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Strategic planning to future-proof your practice

11 July 2018 | Danny Haydon, immediate Past President and a non-executive Director, the Australian Association of Practice Management

The healthcare industry is transforming at a rapid rate, placing increased pressure on practices.

Key factors driving these changes include health reforms, the implementation of the Health Care Homes model and digital health system, the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review and the national roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). These changes are also coupled with the evolving epidemic of chronic diseases and heightened patient expectations.

Adapting during these challenging times and having a solid business strategy in place is essential to ensure your practice not only survives, but thrives. Now is the ideal time to undertake a more in-depth review of your business and plan for the longer-term.

High performing practices

In our experience, high performing practices are embracing the opportunities that these changes create. They think strategically, plan for success and execute their plans efficiently and effectively. Importantly, they regularly take a step back from the day-to-day busyness of running a practice to invest time in strategic planning to grow the practice.

It’s worth noting that the RACGP’s Standards for General Practice (5th edition) Criterion C3.1 – Business operations systems requires practices to demonstrate strategic thinking and business planning. This recognition by the profession to incorporate planning as an accreditation indicator endorses the importance of practices embedding strategic planning into their business practices. 

Benefits of strategic planning

Aligning your business vision and goals through the strategic planning process will ensure your daily operations all work towards achieving sustained success. The benefits of strategic planning include: 

  • Focusing attention on the common vision and purpose.
  • Reducing distractions caused by differences of opinion and other influences.
  • Providing a platform for effective decision making.
  • Reducing your vulnerability to external influences in the industry.
  • Enabling your practice to be proactively managed.
  • Providing a clear focus for the investment of effort and resources.
  • Increasing productivity because effort is steered in the same direction.
  • Building stronger teams and the buy-in of people involved in the process.
  • Communicating goals and objectives to key stakeholders.

Six steps to draft your strategic plan

Drafting a strategic plan involves several steps however in its simplest form it essentially involves asking these key questions: Where are we now?Where do we want to be in the future? and How are we going to get there?

The steps below provide a structure for practices to work through in drafting their strategic plans:

1. Who are we?

  • Our purpose – why does the practice exist and what difference does it make?
  • Our values – the core values that underpin the decisions made by your practice.

2. Where do we want to be?

  • Our vision – a description of what success would look like.

3. Where are we now?

  • The key issues – use a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to identify any issues the practice is currently facing which are likely to have an impact in the future. Consider factors internal to the practice and external, such as the changing profile of the suburb your practice operates in.   

4. How do we get there?

  • Our priorities – key areas your practice needs to focus on.
  • Our objectives – outcomes the practice aims to achieve in each key area and deadlines for each outcome.
  • Our strategies – initiatives or actions that can be undertaken to achieve these outcomes and any resource constraints that need to be considered, for example budget constraints or time.  

5. How do we make it happen?

  • Develop a simplified one-page strategy that can be shared with the practice team – there are lots of good templates online.
  • Create an action plan which includes a more detailed list of action items for each priority area defining who does what by when.

6. Did we make it happen?

  • The most important part of strategic planning is gathering the practice team together to discuss where the practice is at and where it’s heading, then executing the plan. Therefore, it’s crucial to make time to review progress in executing the plan. This should be a standing agenda item at the beginning of your practice’s business meeting.

Return on investment

The best approach for undertaking this planning process is for your practice leaders to set aside a day. We recommend using a neutral venue away from the practice setting and engaging an external facilitator to manage the process. The facilitator should ask a series of questions that enable the group to come to a collective understanding of where the practice is heading and how to get there.

Your strategic plan is one of the most important tools in your business tool kit. Investing time to plan prepares your practice for success and can enable your business to weather the impact of the challenges created as the healthcare environment continues to evolve. 

Applications now open – Avant/AAPM Scholarship Program 2018

Avant and the Australian Association of Practice Management’s (AAPM’s) long-term partnership since 2014, aims to empower practice managers through education.

The Avant/AAPM Scholarship Program 2018 is again offering five scholarships* to study practice management at UNE Partnerships in 2019.

Practice managers can apply directly for a scholarship, and doctors are also invited to nominate their practice manager to apply. For more information visit our website. Applications close Friday 17 August 2018.

*Each scholarship is awarded up to the value of $4,000. For more information and full terms and conditions visit the AAPM website.

More information

If you need expert advice, call our Medico-legal Advisory Service (MLAS) on 1800 128 268, 24-7 in emergencies.

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