A few weeks ago, my family and I decided to leave our home in Chicago for a 4-day retreat to Door County, Wisconsin. If you have never been to Sister Bay, it’s a slice of Americana in the summertime!  We were ready for a healthy distraction and thought we had a great plan in place. The 4-hour drive was stocked with chili-cheese Fritos, sour gummies and cherry Cokes. Thankfully, we arrived in time for a lovely walk around the main strip and dinner on the shore. Talk about a great start! On Friday, the fun continued when we rented “fat-tire” bikes for a day in Peninsula State Park and the town of Fish Creek. On Saturday, we planned to enjoy a guided kayak tour.

Then, everything changed when our car broke down. 

Long story short, let me just say that you don’t want your car to break down on a summertime Saturday in Door County; even AAA could not find us a tow truck, let alone a service station that was open past noon! Our plans for the rest of the weekend were officially out the window. 

Staying Strategic Through COVID-19

In similar fashion, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered many organizations’ strategic plans for 2020 and beyond. In healthcare, industry leaders have tried hard to protect their valued employees despite key revenue drivers, like elective procedures, being significantly reduced and restricted. Fears of the dreaded second wave have been replaced by the reality the first wave has yet to crest. Factors including lingering testing shortages, the uncertain timeline for a vaccine and a looming influenza season can make strategic planning and alignment feel like an exercise in futility.

As the “new normal” timeline elongates, health systems and physician practices are working hard to reevaluate their strategic plans. Big decisions loom ahead as teams address critical needs against opportunities to maximize ROI. Since February, I have been engaged in a series of discussions with healthcare IT leaders in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe. It has been great to lock arms in a collegial sense around solving problems in these difficult times. As such, a few themes have surfaced through these conversations. First and foremost was the need to shift critical resources to the front line to stem the pandemic. Then, there was the lost income attributed to the pandemic driving staff furloughs and layoffs to consider. Finally, the uncertain economic outlook and recovery timelines have redirected capital and operational budgets to the most mission critical tasks.

Making a Plan for Recovery

Strategic planning and alignment in uncertain times is not a new topic. However, this particular scenario is novel, and healthcare has never before seen such an impact to its operations and revenue streams.  In many ways, the playbook is being written as we go.

Still, there are some lessons that unite us as we evaluate how we plan for the recovery process, whenever that becomes possible:

  • A Commitment to Vision and Values. When thinking about how to align your organization amidst uncertainty, it is critical to remember your vision, values and core purpose. In other words, the reason why you exist in healthcare and in business in the first place! Now more than ever, you need to lean on these core principles to guide your teams and determine a path forward.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Transparency in uncertain times is paramount. Communications with your internal teams, supply chains, patients, external groups, partners, customers and vendors has never been more critical. Communicate each critical message multiple times using multiple channels, and then keep doing it.
  • Finding Strategic Planning and Alignment.  Shifting resources, supply chain challenges, information gaps and triaging priorities dominate the now, but so does a litany of other critical decisions and projects you had previously identified. How do you adjust on the fly as the flywheel keeps recalibrating?  
    • We work with our clients applying the GARA Methodology:
      • Gather and Analyze: One very exciting transformation we are seeing is the shift from reporting to analytics driving actionable insights. Dashboards are providing real time data allowing for better and more timely decisions to be made. Access to other important data sets are also available to help point your focus in the right direction. It’s all there, but now comes the need to mine it and use it in a meaningful way in your daily, weekly, and monthly huddles.
      • Recommend: Using scenario planning to evaluate your options and determine the proper ratio of risk and reward is essential. This is how teams can learn where to allocate time and money, double down and invest effectively. ROI assessments to drive informed economic funding decisions are key in this process, and outside expertise can help you efficiently drive these decision points.
      • Act:  Once you determine your project matrix, you now need to Operationalize for Precise Execution (OPE) to align staff appropriately, evaluate any gaps or skills shortages, and get work done.
  • Accountability and Adaptability: The old adage “what gets measured gets produced” always applies, but especially in times of uncertainty. Determining and sticking to a proven measurement methodology ensures proper focus and results in the most pressing areas is crucial. However, measurement only goes so far. As leaders we don’t have to always be right, but we do have to always do the right thing. A steadfast commitment to evaluating and reevaluating your plan will ensure that you recalibrate as you go. If necessary, start back from the top, lean on your values, communicate, apply rigor from a proven methodology and get work done!

Mapping a New Way Forward

In a year like 2020, my vacation woes pale in comparison with the challenges facing healthcare teams. After more calls than I care to mention, a tow to a dealership 25 miles away and seemingly the last cab left in the state of Wisconsin, my family and I were able to sort out our car troubles. We even salvaged the weekend with one final night on the beach and a family meal together before heading home! 

What I learned is that when your plans get torn up, all you can do is focus on what’s most important – the values and people that set you off on the journey in the first place.

Are you struggling to restore your team’s strategic planning and alignment in 2020 and beyond? Medix Technology is here to help with unique solutions to optimize any milestone of your Epic journey. Learn more about our EHR Transformational Services today!

About the Author:
Eric Born is Director of Business Development at Medix Technology.  When not writing, he can be seen around his hometown cheering on his three kids with his wife Sara, or working in the yard with their dogs, Rocky and Millie.