Strategic Planning in Healthcare: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide for Direct Care Practices

Learn more about the 4 stages of creating a strategic planning, which include defining where you are, how to get there, developing your action plan, and establishing a monitoring plan.

As a Direct Care Clinician, it's essential to understand the concept of strategic planning for your Direct Care Practice. 

The writer Alvin Toffler once likened an organization without a strategy to a plane lost in a storm. Just as your patients depend on you for guidance, your practice requires a strategic plan for clear direction, purpose, and growth. 

This article will guide you on how to develop a strategic planning for your Direct Care Practice.

Why Does Strategic Planning Matter in Healthcare, Especially in Direct Care Practices?

Understanding the strategic planning of your Direct Care Practice is crucial. It aligns your daily actions with the broader goals of your practice, ensuring you deliver the best care while contributing to your practice's success and growth. Benefits of a Proper Strategy:

Crafting a Focused Vision

  • It's more than a roadmap; it's about aligning everyone in your organization, from medical assistants to management, towards common goals. This unity ensures we all work cohesively, enhancing patient care and operational efficiency.

Tracking Progress

  • A strategic planning enables us to monitor your progress towards goals. By understanding the bigger picture, every person can contribute meaningfully, with their efforts measured through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Boosting Productivity

  • Anticipating challenges allows you to be proactive rather than reactive. This foresight keeps you ahead, prepared for the evolving healthcare landscape.

Securing a Strong Market Position

  • In a rapidly changing healthcare environment, a strategic approach helps you understand market dynamics, patient needs, and the best positioning for our services for long-term success.

Creating a Unified Direction

  • A strategic planning provides clear direction for your entire organization, aligning everyone with the goals and objectives derived from your mission and vision.

Mission, Vision, Values… Is Your Organizational Identity Solid?

As a Direct Care clinician, you are pivotal in patient care, representing the core of your practice's identity. Understanding your organizational identity helps you align your invaluable work with your broader healthcare goals.

Mission - The Core of Our Practice

Your mission, much like your commitment to each patient's well-being, is the driving force behind your practice's existence. It reflects your dedication to providing exceptional healthcare, guiding everything from treatment offerings to patient interactions.

Vision - Your Collective Aspiration

Your vision represents the ultimate health outcome you aim for in your practice, similar to setting a long-term health goal for a patient. This vision propels and directs your efforts, ensuring continual progression towards greater objectives in healthcare.

Values - Your Guiding Principles

Like how your clinical decisions are informed by medical ethics and patient needs, your values are the principles steering your entire practice. They influence your interactions with patients, teamwork, and decision-making processes, ensuring integrity, compassion, and excellence in all aspects of care.

How to Make a Strategic Planning in 4 Steps

We have seen that for your Direct Care Practice to succeed, establishing a strategic planning is essential. But how do you get started on drawing up this planning?

We now place emphasis on the 4 steps you need to follow to have a well-defined planning.

1. Define Where You Are

The first step in strategic planning for your company is to perform a SWOT analysis. This acronym refers to four elements: 

With this study, you can focus on your strengths, recognize weaknesses, find opportunities, and guard against threats. 

This set of information indicates exactly where your practice is at the moment, taking into account a view of both the internal environment and the opportunities that can be seized.

Strengths and weaknesses speak about internal factors. Opportunities and threats, on the other hand, speak about external factors, which are beyond your control. In SWOT analysis, these two scenarios are known as the internal environment and external environment, respectively.

How about an example of a SWOT analysis in the DPC environment?


  • Personalized Care: You offer more personalized, patient-centered care due to smaller patient loads and longer appointment times.
  • Simplified Payment Model: DPC eliminates the complexity of insurance billing, often leading to a more straightforward financial model with monthly or annual membership fees.
  • Improved Patient-Doctor Relationship: Closer patient relationships can lead to higher patient satisfaction and better health outcomes.


  • Limited Patient Base: There is room to grow your number of patients, which impacts revenue potential.
  • Limited Scope of Services: You may not offer the full range of medical services.
  • Market Awareness: Many consumers are still unfamiliar with the DPC model, which can affect patient acquisition.


  • Healthcare Market Disruption: Increasing frustration with traditional healthcare models offers DPC practices the chance to present an appealing alternative.
  • Employer Partnerships: Partnering with local businesses for employee healthcare can provide a steady patient base and revenue stream.
  • Expanding Services: Offering additional services, such as wellness programs for employers, preventive care, or specialized treatments, can attract a broader patient demographic.


  • Regulatory Changes: Potential changes in healthcare laws and regulations could impact DPC practice operations.
  • Economic Factors: Economic downturns can affect patients’ ability to afford membership fees, impacting revenue.
  • Insurance Industry Influence: The traditional insurance-based healthcare model may push back against DPC models, influencing patient choices and policy decisions.

2. Define How to Get There

After gathering all the information, it's time for the development phase. This is when you start to actually assemble the strategic planning for your business. A strategic planning consists of five main components: a vision statement; a mission statement; goals; objectives; and an action plan.

Are you familiar with the Balanced Scorecard or BSC? This is a management model that guides the practice's efforts and resources in coordinated actions, with a focus on strategy.

The Balanced Scorecard is based on 4 principles:

A. Financial Perspective 

It deals with the company's profitability and productivity results.

B. Customer Perspective

It refers to the value proposition that the company wants to deliver to customers, such as satisfaction, market share, return rate, etc.

C. Internal Perspective 

It deals with various internal performance indicators, such as delivery delays and production cost reduction.

D. Learning and Growth Perspective 

Its main indicators refer to something new related to satisfaction, motivation, training, and retention of the workforce, sharing of best practices, etc.

Defining SMART Goals

It is important to remember that to define goals in a structured way there is a management method, known as SMART objectives, which is based on five pillars:

S - Specific

M - Measurable

A - Attainable

R - Relevant

T - Time-based

In a smart and detailed goal, each team member knows exactly what they need to do and when to do it. On the other hand, when a goal lacks detail and does not follow the SMART guidelines, it does not direct any action and, therefore, does not generate productivity.

Example Related to the Financial Perspective:
  • Objective: Grow Your Patient Base and Revenue
  • Goal: Increase the patient base by 30% by the end of the year, expanding from 1000 to 1300 patients.

3. Define your Action Plan

In this phase, after dedicating significant time to defining objectives and goals, it's time to focus efforts on a concrete action plan. 

Taking the previous example of aiming to increase your patient base by 30% within a year, consider adding the following actions to your plan:

  • Partner with other clinicians to gain doctor referrals.
  • Enhance your Digital Marketing Strategy, including channels such as website and social media, to attract more qualified leads.
  • Engage with your local community to attract additional patients.
  • Initiate partnerships with employers.

The goal behind this stage is to gather as much information as possible about the task that is planned to be carried out. This involves everything from more general data, like what the activity is and why it needs to be done, to more specific details, like the delivery time, available resources to use, and the person responsible for it.

As a big picture, you can create a strategic map with detailed objectives, specific goals, indicators, and necessary initiatives to meet all these principles.

4. Define a Control and Monitoring Plan

After going through past stages, all focused on analyses and definitions important for the entire organization, now is the time to define how each stage will be monitored, as well as the established goals.

This model should consider:

  • Focus on participation and the role of the teams;
  • Efficiency in applying the efforts needed to achieve the expected objectives;
  • Continuous monitoring of progress in executing the plan;
  • Continuous analysis of the organizational model that establishes responsibilities and competencies.
  • Looking at the action plan, you can already stipulate how each one will be monitored and which person is responsible for reporting the progress of activities.

At the end of the strategic planning process, you should have a clear direction of where the practice will head today, tomorrow, and in the future.

These discussions and the planning process itself help to put the practice in the best position to succeed and, most importantly, to achieve predictable growth.

Strategic planning gives you and your company time to figure out how to grow in the coming years and how to deal with new opportunities and challenges. Think about the challenges or problems your practice might face and plan accordingly, so you don't stumble over obstacles that may arise ahead.

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