An Introduction to Healthcare Strategic Planning

Strategic growth planning is a process that guides the future of an organization. Hospital and health system leaders can use the strategic planning process in healthcare to determine a path toward a desired future state, ensuring the organization remains competitive, financially stable, and able to meet the community's needs.

What is a Healthcare Strategic Growth Plan?

A healthcare strategic growth plan is:

  • An opportunity to align future vision for the organization with its mission
  • A proposal for how to reach a desired growth goal
  • A process for identifying growth priorities
  • A road map of specific actions required to reach the desired future state

Leaders must remember that throughout the strategic planning process in healthcare, data should lay the foundation for a strategic growth plan. Organizations should leverage clinical, financial, operational, and market data to ensure that the healthcare strategy developed throughout the process will lead to the desired outcomes. 


7 steps for a successful strategic plan

Healthcare organizations face a variety of challenges every day. For strategic planning in healthcare, leaders must take a step back from the day-to-day challenges and duties and thoughtfully develop a data-driven, strategic growth plan. The strategic planning process in healthcare involves seven key steps that can serve as a road map to successful planning.

strategic planning in healthcare steps chart


  1. Define your organization’s mission, vision, and values. Write a mission, vision, and values statement if the organization does not have one, or revisit the existing statement to determine if it remains appropriate and relevant. A mission statement defines the overall aim of the organization. A vision statement says what the organization aspires to look like after implementing the strategic plan. Values are a set of rules that outline the organization’s moral compass and defining principles. 

  1. Analyze your business and the market. Evaluate your organization’s current resources and operations, including conducting a SWOT analysis to define strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Conduct a gap analysis by comparing the organization's resources to what is needed to achieve the desired strategic outcomes, and determine how best to close the gap. In addition to evaluating the current state of your organization, also assess competitors, industry trends, and the overall healthcare strategy in the market. Engage stakeholders across the organization for a more robust analysis and to help garner buy-in early in the planning process. 

  1. Define strategic growth goals and priorities. Answer the question: Where do we want to go? This step involves reviewing all possible strategic options — such as offering a new service line or expanding into a new geographic area — and selecting those that best align with the organization’s long-term vision. Use the insights from the gap analysis to ensure those goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based (S.M.A.R.T.). 

  1. Formulate your strategies. Develop a plan to achieve organizational goals that builds on current strengths and aligns with the mission, vision, and values. The strategies should provide clear, actionable directives focused on growth, cost management, and process improvements. Use tools such as scenario planning to project the impacts of defined strategies on operations to find an optimal path forward, taking into account various factors such as regulatory changes, evolving payment models, and competitive pressures. Establish guidelines for how the organization will measure success and identify timelines. 

  1. Develop the strategy execution plan. Determine the most effective way to execute the strategic plan. This includes identifying accountable stakeholders and champions at the executive and staff levels for specific initiatives. Build a strong communication plan to help ensure alignment organization-wide. This step also requires developing a robust strategic financial plan that defines how resources will be allocated to successfully execute strategic initiatives. 

  1. Execute the strategic plan. Implement the plan by first executing the communications plan to share organizational goals and strategies with stakeholders across the organization. The strategic plan’s success hinges largely on having the engagement and active involvement of those on the frontlines responsible for executing it. Be sure to adequately allocate resources — such as funds and staffing — to support successful execution of strategic initiatives. 

  1. Monitor progress and recalibrate as needed. It is important to understand if your actions contribute to desired progress and outcomes. Track key performance indicators (KPIs) relative to strategic goals regularly. Continually ask the questions: Are we focused on the right things? Are we achieving the result we planned for? Is this the healthcare strategy we want? If the organization starts to veer off course for any reason, assess the situation and adjust either the tactics or the plan as needed to get back on track. Tools such as rolling forecasts, executive reporting, and automated alerts or notifications can help finance teams monitor and trend organizational performance against established targets and respond quickly when issues arise. 

Hospital and health system leaders should use these seven steps to help propel their organizations forward. With engagement and commitment from the entire organization, the strategic planning process in healthcare will ultimately help you answer four fundamental questions that are critical to ensuring success and stability: Where is the organization today? Where should the organization be in the future? How should the organization get there? Is the organization getting there?