Epidemiology and the Delivery of Health Care Services

pp 99-132

Strategic Planning

An Essential Management Tool for Health Care Organizations and Its Epidemiological Basis
  • Frances J. JaegerAffiliated withUniversity of Illinois at Chicago Perinatal Center

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If an organization engages in effective strategic planning—performing an accurate situational assessment, developing a clear sense of direction, and achieving consensus on appropriate overall strategies—then it should produce a plan suitable for motivating and guiding its actions for at least a few years into the future. Because many variables in the health care field are surrounded by uncertainty and defy precise prediction, strategic plans typically focus on a planning horizon of 3 to 5 years. It is appropriate for an organization to apply a mechanism for at least a cursory review,and revision as necessary, of its strategic plan on an annual or biannual basis.

Because planning is an adapting and ongoing activity, it can accurately be presented as a circular process—one that is never really finished because the end of one planning process signals the beginning of the next cycle (Day, 1984). During intervals when planning is not occurring on a formal or intensive basis, organizations must nevertheless maintain systems for monitoring compliance with plans, assessing impact, and determining whether the assump- tions underlying strategies remain valid. Given that change is constant and that change will affect the delivery of health care around the world, organizations must be prepared to change as well. Strategic planning must be used to determine what changes are required to promote organizational survival and to provide the organization (system, state, or nation) with the benefits of functioning proactively, not simply reactively.