Healthcare Strategic Planning: How To Link Goals To Health Outcomes In 4 Steps

This article outlines four critical steps to help you link your short-term goals to your long-term health outcomes.

Ted, Founder and Managing Partner at ClearPoint, has over 25 years of experience working with organizations to improve their performance management and strategy execution processes.

As a preeminent healthcare organization, you have a vision of a long-term outcome you’re trying to achieve. This could be anything—increasing the lifespan of someone with a particular ailment, improving vision in children, aiding in creating a healthier population, etc. Achieving this long-term outcome is what you’re all about as a healthcare organization.

You also have goals that aren’t as high-level as health outcomes but are still critical, like managing your costs or increasing your partnerships.

Like many organizations, you may be struggling with tying these two things together. In this article, I’ll outline four important steps to help you link your short-term goals to your long-term health outcomes—effectively and with ease.

Healthcare Strategic Planning: How To Link Goals To Health Outcomes In 4 Steps

Step 1: Determine the major strategies or themes that will help you achieve your outcomes.

Let’s say the long-term health outcome you wish to achieve is to reduce juvenile diabetes. The next step you’ll need to take is to identify 3-4 things your organization needs to do that will ultimately lead to this outcome being achieved. These “things” are your strategies. (If your organization uses the Balanced Scorecard, you might call these separate strategies “themes” that all work toward a single strategy.) These strategies should be as long-term as the health outcome you’re trying to achieve—at a minimum, 10 years.

If you’re looking to reduce juvenile diabetes, your strategies may be:

  • Outreach and education.
  • Improved preventative care.
  • Better research.

Step 2: Break your strategies into a manageable set of goals.

Now that you’ve named your strategies, it’s time to break each of them into a manageable set of goals with a three- to five-year time horizon. Let’s refer back to our example above: One of your strategies is to look at outreach and education. So when you talk about education, what does that mean? If you want to achieve the outcome of reducing juvenile diabetes, that may mean you need to increase education around the topic for the population you’re targeting.

How do you do that?

  • Create web-based classes.
  • Create educational marketing campaigns.
  • Insert education into the secondary school system.
  • Partner with local colleges to create educational certifications.

Be sure that the goals you choose can be executed in the next 3-5 years, and address both the strategy at hand and the greater health outcome you’re targeting.

Step 3: Break your goals into distinct measures.

If one of your goals is to insert education into the secondary school system, you now need to decide who is responsible for that, how you know if it’s getting done, and what specific activities will help you achieve that goal.

Let’s say you decide you’re going to measure education in the secondary school system by examining the high schools that have put your curriculum in place and the number of kids in secondary schools that have taken a particular health survey.

Are you tracking the most important KPIs for healthcare strategic planning? Download 108 free metrics.

Both of these metrics are measurable:

  • The number of teachers that have implemented our curriculum.
  • The number of students that have taken the two-question health survey.

Step 4: Break your measures into actionable projects.

The final step in linking your goals to your overarching outcomes in your healthcare strategic plan is to break those distinct measures down into actionable projects. We’ve broken our two measure examples down below.

Measure: “The number of teachers that have implemented our curriculum.”
Project: Determine whether you should implement your curriculum at the school or superintendent level—and then execute. For example, if you implement at the superintendent level, it’s possible the process will be a lot slower, but it might be done on a systematic basis. If you implement at the individual school level, you might be able to see quick results in some schools but never be picked up in other schools. 

Measure: “The number of students that have taken this two-question survey.”
Project: Create a compelling phone-based survey. For example, you know students in secondary schools are not going to take a long survey—so you have to determine the best format. Should it be a text message survey, phone-based, or online? And which two questions would give us the best data?

Your projects can be assigned a budget, individual owners, a timeline, and more.

See Also: How To Create A Gantt Chart

Now, take a step back. You have two teams; one working on building a web survey and the other working on implementing a health curriculum at the secondary school level. You have been able to successfully tie these immediate activities to the long term vision of reducing juvenile diabetes.

Strategic Management In Healthcare: How To Get Buy-In

It’s critical to remember that this entire process might only involve 5-10 people in your organization. So you need to consider how you’re going to align everyone in the organization—from those dealing with patient care and surgery to those managing partnerships and quality. All of these individuals need to be able to connect their activities to the given strategies and link goals with measures and projects to ultimately achieve the outcomes.

When you’re trying to get everyone in the organization to buy in, remember that the best examples you can give them are examples from inside your organization. So as you build out your healthcare strategies, look for places where you see success and document it in a way that will help others look for those connections. This will help tremendously in the change management process.

In Conclusion

Remember: You may not know if you are achieving your overall health outcome in Q1 or Q2—or even in year one or two! This can be frustrating to those who want to see more immediate, tangible changes. But by adding the intermediate steps of listing all your strategies and breaking those down into measures, everyone will have a more direct connection to their short-term and long-term progress of your healthcare strategic planning.

If you want to see how other medical and healthcare organizations worldwide are experiencing success with healthcare strategic planning, download the free guide below. It will walk you through four sample Balanced Scorecard strategy maps—from teaching hospitals to regional healthcare systems—and get you on the right track to create your own.

Healthcare Strategic Planning: How To Link Goals To Health Outcomes In 4 Steps