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Strategic Planning Process Highlight: The External Assessment

A complete strategic plan will always include an external assessment.  The external assessment should examine the organization’s historical performance as it relates to its respective marketplace, including analysis of the market’s historical performance as well as anticipated future trends and forecasts.  The external assessment has five main components:

1.  Review of demographic, economic, and health status conditions

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This task identifies broad trends and variables that will impact organizational performance.  In addition, this task can assist in possibly identifying geographical areas or population segments that exhibit potential for future development.

2.  Review of the state of healthcare delivery

This piece of the assessment will review applicable healthcare technology, delivery, reimbursement, regulatory, teaching, and research trends to identify any significant environmental factors that may affect the organization’s performance.  Major trends in each category should be profiled for the previous three to five years.  In addition, forecasts of predicted trends for the next three to five years should be identified and discussed.

3.  Analysis of competitors

A thorough competitor analysis should be conducted that is based on data from a variety of sources at all geographic levels (i.e., locally, state-wide, regionally, nationally)

4.  Primary market research

Market research should ideally provide relevant information on the organization’s position in its marketplace relative to its competitors, as well as predictions for likely changes in external factors.  Senior leadership from competitor organizations, community leaders, and other individuals with relevant knowledge of the healthcare delivery system typically serve as ideal research targets.

5.  Assessment of market forecasts and implications

Previously compiled data from publicly available forecasts should be collected and analyzed.  If additional forecasts are required, projections should include analysis of all major health service components such as acute, post-acute, and ambulatory care services by major service lines.

The end product of the external assessment should be a complete and concise summary of the organization’s market structure.  A brief report with highlighting of key points (including a handful of relevant charts/graphs) should suffice.  If necessary, additional materials may be available for back-up support.