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How To Do A SWOT Analysis In Healthcare

Learn the four steps of SWOT analysis in healthcare and the five rules to live by during this process, with a bonus section of common examples.

Tricia, Senior Consultant at ClearPoint, leverages her 4+ years of performance management experience when working with customers to improve their reporting and strategy execution.

While there is some debate, most people agree that SWOT analysis originated from a Stanford University research project in the 1960s-70s.

Using data from top companies, the project tried to figure out why corporate planning fails. The original term, “SOFT analysis,” eventually morphed into present-day SWOT, which is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. (If you need a refresher on SWOT itself before we dive into using it for healthcare, check out our in-depth article on the subject.)

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning framework that helps organizations in a variety of industries analyze their businesses and has been adopted by hospitals due to its effective and straightforward methods. In this article, we’ll explain how to do a SWOT analysis in healthcare, and how ClearPoint can help. We’ll also provide a few common examples to get you started.

The Four Steps Of SWOT Analysis In Healthcare

Step 1: Pull together key data.

To be a well-run, high-performing hospital, you must be data driven. The first step of SWOT analysis in healthcare is to collect and assess important data. This can range from patient health records and disease registries to claims statuses and funding sources. You don’t need to use every byte of data you have—focus on key metrics that relate to your strategy. Once you’ve gathered the information, double check that it’s accurate and begin to identify your organization’s capabilities. In this situation, remember that data can be more helpful than gut reactions. Do we have a slow emergency room, or is it similar to others in the state? If your hospital reports regularly on progress, this step is really easy.

Do you track and measure the right data? Browse this library of 108 healthcare metrics...you may find a few that should be part of your SWOT.

In ClearPoint, gathering information in preparation for doing a SWOT analysis is a snap. Make no mistake—all your data won’t live in ClearPoint, but the platform can be a central source for strategic data, so you can easily grab the key information you need for a SWOT analysis.

Forget about searching around your various systems. ClearPoint automatically pulls data from the many sources you have.

  • By using tools like the Data Loader and ClearPoint Sync, you can set up connections to local spreadsheets and databases without any coding or IT involvement. The Data Loader can “watch” for edits to files you’ve designated and automatically upload new data to ClearPoint when it’s changed. This happens in real time and on autopilot...it couldn’t be easier to get fresh information into your account.
  • Using the ClearPoint API, you can integrate ClearPoint quickly and easily with other cloud-based solutions to import and export data between ClearPoint and your other applications.
  • ClearPoint also has direct links to Microsoft Dynamics, Quickbooks, Monday, Asana, Google Analytics, and HubSpot to pull in information from some of the most common applications you might use.

Using your strategic data, you can then create a variety of alignment and measure reports within ClearPoint to help you understand what your organization does well—and what it doesn’t.

Step 2: Fill out the SWOT categories.

The second step is to take the data you collected in step one and organize it into the four SWOT categories: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. If you have trouble segregating the information, remember that your strengths and weaknesses are internal factors, while opportunities and threats are the result of external, uncontrollable factors.

Of course a SWOT is not entirely data driven, but data can be helpful in thinking about what you’re good at and what areas need improvement. Some organizations look at their SWOT categories using Balanced Scorecard Perspectives. What are our financial strengths and weaknesses? Are there any opportunities afforded to us as a result of our strong financial position (such as mergers)? This is a quick example, but you get the idea.

This is a critical step! In the next section, we outline some rules to follow when you’re doing your SWOT. Here are some ideas for gaining that competitive advantage for your healthcare organization when you're doing your SWOT analysis.

If you’re a ClearPoint user, all the data you need to complete the “internal factors” sections (strengths and weaknesses) already lives in the software, so completing this step simply means looking at your reports within ClearPoint.

How you choose to view your data is up to you; ClearPoint makes it easy to quickly produce any type of report you deem most helpful. Take a look at the screenshots below for some examples from a fictional healthcare organization.

The first image shows performance evaluations according to the categories of the Balanced Scorecard. The red, amber, and green indicators spotlight where you’re struggling in each category, and where you’re succeeding. Service and budget are areas of strength, whereas the company seems to be struggling with providing resources to patients.

Balanced Scorecard - ClearPoint Strategy

Below is a trend report from the healthcare organization that visually displays trends in metrics over time. You can see the current status of a measure, as well as understand how it is doing compared to past performance. If you’ve been struggling with something for a while, it likely belongs in the “Weakness” category.

Trend report - ClearPoint Strategy

A red measures dashboard like the one below focuses on poorly performing metrics, making it easy to identify potential weaknesses. It includes qualitative fields so measure owners can explain why the measure is off track—information that will be helpful for your SWOT discussion.

Red measures dashboard - ClearPoint Strategy

You can also identify external threats by putting together a risk report. (Learn more about the risk assessment process here.)

Risk report - ClearPoint Strategy

Step 3: Develop SWOT matrices. (Optional)

Next, develop a four-box SWOT matrix for each business unit. This may not be necessary if you have a smaller organization, which is why it’s optional. The goal here is to tailor SWOTs to specific departments or teams, so you can get a multifaceted picture of your capabilities instead of having to make generalizations that span the company.

Step 4: Perform analysis and make decisions.

At this point, you’ll take what you’ve learned in the previous three steps and start your analysis. This is where the real value from the SWOT analysis is derived! The insights you gain from categorizing data into the SWOT categories and consolidating it in a box matrix will inform your strategic planning and influence your biggest decisions. If you decide that you’re weak in a particular area, what should you do about it? Should you exit that business or invest to improve it?

For most people, getting to this step would have been a fairly time-consuming exercise, but if you’re a ClearPoint user, it’s not that way at all. In fact, you could gather the necessary data for this step—and produce the reports—in approximately 30 minutes! This efficient use of time allows you to focus all your efforts on the most important part: deciding how best to use your strengths, overcome your weaknesses, minimize threats, and take advantage of the opportunities that could move your business forward.

ClearPoint users have all the SWOT data they need, anytime they need it.

San Juan Regional Medical Center - ClearPoint StrategyBefore switching to ClearPoint, San Juan Regional Medical Center (SJRMC) was using an aging software solution that was complicated to operate and lacked a comprehensive dashboard view of metrics. It also offered no way to compile individual metrics into a larger strategic view of the hospital’s performance. This dissected view made it hard to know how any single department’s daily work was contributing to (or detracting from) efforts to reach the facility’s larger goals; that in turn made it difficult to understand each department’s strengths and weaknesses.

When SJRMC found ClearPoint, users throughout the facility were amazed at how simple it was to “see” their department’s performance. All their strategic data now lives in ClearPoint, and managers can easily find and update data regularly. They can also quickly tailor reports to show exactly what they need for any kind of performance analysis, including SWOT.

As for the time factor? Where once it would take half a day for SJRMC to create a single report, now it takes just minutes.

Imagine what you could accomplish with all your strategic data at the ready! (If you’d like to take a peek at our software, let us know.)

7 Rules To Live By When Doing SWOT Analysis

When you’re looking at the pile of data you gathered in the very first step of SWOT analysis in healthcare, it can be easy to lose sight of the overall framework. When you’re in the midst of step two, keep these rules in mind:

  1. Be specific. Your SWOT will drive all strategic decisions, so avoid vague or unclear statements. For example, saying your hospital’s strength is fundraising is too ambiguous. But if you were to say your strength was fundraising $10 million annually, primarily through major gifts, the specificity makes it easier to form strategy around.
  2. Promote collaboration. Get feedback from other stakeholders and subject matter experts. These could be outside consultants, cross-functional support staff, or even internal research team members. Their input will help provide accuracy and promote objectivity (see rule #6).
  3. Be realistic. Especially as you evaluate your internal strengths and weaknesses, be realistic and set aside any biases based on your personal experience or knowledge. The output of this SWOT analysis will help drive your organization forward, so don’t include information that won’t be useful or is outside your scope of capabilities.
  4. Apply context. Differentiate between your organization’s current state and where you want to be in the future. Focus your strengths and weaknesses on where you are now, and opportunities and threats on where you can be.
  5. Keep it simple. Avoid overanalysis or unnecessary complexity—that just makes it harder to analyze the information. Create straightforward, simple SWOT statements that will neatly plug into your matrix.
  6. Keep emotion out of the room. In order for a SWOT analysis to work, participants need to evaluate the organization’s strengths and weaknesses in an unbiased, objective way, similar to what an outside consultant would do. It may be hard to hear some information, but you won’t get the full benefit of the exercise unless you conduct open and honest conversations.
  7. Consider your competition. As you contemplate your strengths and weaknesses, don’t forget to consider the competition: If you’re doing something just as well as every other organization, then it’s not really a strength. The things you do better than everyone else are what set you apart. Remember to take your competition into account when assessing your internal attributes.

SWOT Analysis Examples In Healthcare

Below are common examples of strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats a hospital might have. These provide a general guide to help you get started with your own SWOT analysis. We have added examples in parentheses of how you might leverage some of your data to identify areas in your SWOT.

Strengths:

  • A primary focus on quality improvement ($ saved from quality projects)
  • Internal teams dedicated to research and analytics ($ spent on research)
  • High-quality medical personnel (# of staff with external recognition)
  • Modern medical equipment and a well-equipped facility (average age of medical equipment)

Weakness:

  • Outdated healthcare facilities and technology
  • Insufficient management training
  • Lack of funding and resources to support programs
  • Poor location that’s not easily accessible for staff and patients
  • High staff turnover

Opportunities:

  • Collaborate with different healthcare organizations to knowledge share
  • Develop healthcare programs and initiatives to drive more community outreach and engagement
  • Increase funding for analytics and researching, including both staff and technology
  • Create mentor programs

Threats:

  • Economic or political insecurity
  • Policy and legislation changes that result in budget deficits
  • Pressure to reduce costs while meeting expectations of universal healthcare coverage
  • Increased competition from newly built hospitals

Your SWOT is just the start.

After you’ve done your SWOT analysis, you’ll know where you’re leading and where you’re lagging. Your next move is to plug this information into a strategy map. ClearPoint can help you align your SWOT with your strategy and track everything, so you can improve performance and achieve your goals.

Contact us to learn more about what comes after the SWOT analysis for healthcare organizations.

How To Do A SWOT Analysis In Healthcare