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Strategic Planning and Marketing

Business plans are not just for big business. Every business needs to have a road map to help it get where it wants to go. Unfortunately, few medical groups prepare and use formal business plans. Since many groups have been in business for some time, their physicians may feel that plans aren't really necessary. Hence, many physicians simply grow accustomed to operating day-to-day by seeing as many patients as they can.

The concepts of strategic planning are, however, valuable for medical groups just as they are for other businesses, especially in view of today's health care environment which continues to be characterized by rapid change and unpredictability. No matter how large or small your medical group, you are dealing with a changing environment. A number of factors are driving this change: a highly competitive environment and the impact of managed care; the increasing impact of technology in the day-to-day operations of clinics; continual advances in treatment techniques; and the involvement of practices in a variety of strategic alliances, ranging from arrangements with practice management organizations to mergers with other practices.

Managing a medical practice successfully in this environment demands an increasing level of sophistication because the margins for management error have dramatically decreased. With low reimbursement and high expenses, even a small management misstep can mean a fiscal mess. Regardless, there are still plenty of physician groups working under the misconception that if they practice good medicine, they'll do just fine. In fact, less than a third of all medical groups even have a business plan. That means most physicians are missing significant opportunities to improve upon the way they run their businesses.

A business plan is a written document that summarizes strategies for the future direction of the organization and articulates the action plans for achieving the organization's business objectives. The business plan is the framework by which an organization's purposes, values, goals, and needs are translated into action plans.

Marc H. Bailey & Associates will assist your practice in developing a strategic business plan that will create the practice you want and deserve. The plan will provide a road map on how your medical practice will compete and how it will position itself among its competitors. The plan will address the following four key questions which are at the heart of strategic planning:

  1. What is happening in your area? (What changes are occurring or will occur in your practice's demographics, payers, area employers, referral relationships, and competitors? What changes are anticipated in your hospital's integrated delivery system strategies? What new community initiatives are expected? What new market trends are emerging that will impact your practice?)
  2. Who are you? (What are your group's values, mission and expectations? What are your group's strengths and weaknesses? Is your group differentiated from its competitors and if so, how? Does the public know about your group's strengths and how your group is differentiated?)
  3. What's ahead for your group? (Where does your group want to be 3-5 years from now? What obstacles will be encountered? What financial and/or human resources will be necessary to achieve your practice goals?)
  4. How will you get there? (How will your group overcome its weaknesses? How will your group capitalize on its strengths? How will your group overcome the identified obstacles? What opportunities might be taken advantage of?)

Formulating your group's business strategy may reveal opportunities for greater profitability and for enhanced service that can help to differentiate your practice from its competitors. And by examining the values expressed in the actions and policies of your medical practice, incongruities previously undetected may be discovered.

The competitive marketplace will put increasing pressure on medical groups to operate like structured businesses with strategic business plans, operating budgets and future business projections. Whether your group is interested in growth or simply wishes to maintain the status quo, you need to look at what's changing to ensure that your practice will not only survive but prosper in the years ahead. And as competition in the health care marketplace increases and patients begin to prefer medical services that more closely meet their needs, your medical practice's values will come under closer scrutiny out of economic necessity. It is therefore wise to assess and develop your group's business strategy now before it becomes an imperative as a result of loosing market share to your competitors.

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Marc H. Bailey and Associates • 5013 Butterfield Court • Culver City, CA 90230 • Tel. 310.838.9170 • marcbailey@ca.rr.com