The coronavirus (COVID-19) fundamentally changed the landscape of hospitals and health systems in 2020 and leaders are now charged with developing post-pandemic growth strategies which involve developing priorities that reflect a new reality. In order to not only survive but to grow and thrive post COVID, hospital and healthcare system leaders need to be forward-thinking now more than ever and take a more nuanced approach in order to achieve long-term growth as the landscape has changed rapidly.
Not only are healthcare leaders re-assessing their operations to include how and where care is delivered, they are also assessing how best to procure supplies as well as focusing on the immediate challenges of developing a recovery or restart plan that can take them through the long-term changes that the pandemic has brought to healthcare.
Corazon believes strategic planning post-COVID is absolutely necessary as organizations contend with higher costs and seek cost savings measures through process optimization and organizational redesign. Simply returning to the pre-pandemic status quo could be detrimental to programmatic growth and future planning; instead, hospitals must consider the many changes that have occurred and how best to adapt to foster future success.
Successful strategic planning requires the following essential factors: 1) understanding the impact of COVID; 2) develop the path forward; and 3) look for new value.
- Assessing and understanding the Impact: It is imperative to first understand the effects of COVID on the organization’s financial and operational status. A recent analysis by the American Hospital Association (AHA) concluded that organizations are still suffering from continued negative impact to their financial stability into 2021. In order to understand the effect, Corazon recommends an assessment that combines pre-COVID analysis of internal components and external factors, compared to the current status. This evaluation and comparison will result in an organization-specific picture that provides the “new” normal. Included in this assessment should be insight into under-preforming services. And as decisions are made to restart services, expand programs, or change processes to improve cost or quality, underperforming sites of care for key services should be assessed with a renewed focus on service line growth and consolidation of services.
- Develop the Path Forward: The focus moving forward should be two-fold; strategic growth and recovery and should be linked back to the organizational goals for a post-COVID future. Organizations that suffered from financial challenges prior to COVID and hit hard by the virus’ effects may need to focus on significant restructuring and strategic themes that are seen as growth areas in order to determine which areas can make the biggest counter-impact. Each strategic growth area should include a targeted four or five strategies that will provide the best acceleration forward.
- Looking for new value in the post-COVID future demands that an organization will need to invest time and energy in order to develop a clear vision and goals, develop a plan for that change to happen, and then execute timely. Strategic growth strategy areas will need to cover the needs of the healthcare system well after the Post-COVID-19 crisis, especially as many of the changes that have been implemented within the healthcare industry (telehealth, for instance) are likely here to stay.
Corazon believes the foundation of any growth strategy should focus on not only saving money, but on operational efficiency and improving resiliency. As leaders start to revisit strategic plans, they must engage their decision makers in planning exercises with the aim to develop new assumptions about their markets in consideration of Covid-19.
If leaders are to ensure future growth, they must not only deal with the crisis and pressures at hand, but will need to rethink their strategy and develop groups that will work on issues such as:
- Identification of new growth opportunities – where can we grow, improve, or expand?
- Reforecasting post COVID-19 – what does the local, regional, national market look like?
- A determination of which areas will need to realign with the new normal – what new processes, policies, or procedures should remain?
To emerge successfully from the COVID crisis, organizations will need to develop the finest and most nuanced strategic plans, with highly-coordinated execution. COVID-19 has upended the entire healthcare landscape — and has accelerated change at previously unseen speeds … it’s up to health leaders to keep up with this rapid transformation and anticipate what comes next in the new reality.