From Theory to Practice: Developing Strategy for Healthcare Administrators

Last Updated September 24, 2018

As with any industry, leaders in healthcare administration only succeed to the extent they form workable plans and then execute them, inspiring confidence, trust and maximum effort from their employees.

For every success story about leaders in healthcare, there are plenty more that end in failure. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 70% of strategic initiatives put in place in hospitals fail. Too often leaders intending to be strategic forget key components of both strategy creation and management itself.

When deciding to step into a leadership role in healthcare administration, different theories can govern the approach and actions taken to reach goals such as better operational efficiency, employee retention and growth.

Leadership Approach

There are a number of ways to approach developing a strategy for addressing a healthcare facility’s issues. These approaches are formed on the basis of a leader observing the culture of a given facility and developing a theory around what kind of approach and initiatives can combine to best drive change within the organization.

Theories that drive strategic leadership in healthcare have changed over time. An approach that works well in one organization will not in another and changes must be made over time as medical operations evolve.

After identifying organizational issues, those in a position of leadership have to determine their approach. Some of the various leadership approaches include:

  • Transformational – Focuses on bringing people together behind a mission to transform the organization, the idea being that people work better when they collaborate on a shared goal. This requires leaders to clearly communicate their vision for an organization – and it needs to be a vision that excites and motivates employees.
  • Collaborative – In this approach, leaders facilitate communication between various groups within an organization who then use information they exchange to establish and attain goals. This encourages communication between different departments within the healthcare organization and requires people at all levels to participate in leadership, finding solutions to operational challenges and reducing complexity within the organization.
  • Conflict Management – Conflicts arise in every organization, especially in complex, large healthcare operations and are often a source of inefficiency. Most of the time these happen because of poor communication and a lack of shared goals, although it also can involve long-standing conflicts between individuals and teams that must be addressed. By placing priority on addressing these issues, healthcare leaders can eliminate bottlenecks and longstanding problem areas while creating positive outcomes for all parties involved.
  • Shared Leadership – A top-down, authoritarian approach does not always work well in a healthcare setting, which is staffed by highly skilled professionals who are experts in their fields. With shared leadership, decisions are made on a team level, with each area responsible for maintaining efficient operations, retaining qualified employees and continually improving quality of care.

Strategic Initiatives

Whatever approach is applied to healthcare leadership, there are some basic strategic initiatives that can help improve your chances of success. Keep the following areas of focus in mind when developing a leadership plan.

Improved Communication

Lack of good communication underlies the problems in almost every organization. Leaders must take on the challenge of communicating the company vision and goals and creating an atmosphere in which employees know how they can take action to achieve those goals. This is vital when it comes to developing employees, offering a clear path for the most skilled and ambitious people to move up in an organization.

Focus on Improved Care

Every team and individual in healthcare should focus on the quality of care, but this can get lost in a large operation. Making the improvement of patient care the top priority – and properly communicating this – can bring employees together. This includes integrating the efforts of everyone on a healthcare team involved in providing patient care, as well as the collaboration between patients and medical professionals on treatment plans.

Acquiring New Executive Skills

True organizational change must come from the executive level. Today’s healthcare leaders wear a variety of hats. Beyond providing an inspiring vision and communicating that vision consistently, they also must be aware of the latest advances in technology that are transforming healthcare delivery, as well as the shifting government regulations that medical operations must follow. All of this is against the backdrop of sometimes tight financial situations in which leaders must maximize the resources of their employers.

Establish Metrics Milestones

It’s impossible to get where you want to go without having important milestones along the way. Having a vision, communicating it well and getting everyone on board are important steps – but establishing metrics to determine whether you are moving in the right direction is just as important. Everyone must know what success looks like.