Healthcare is detrimental to a good quality of life in a civilized society. A human being is resilient enough to be persistent through many challenges in life as long as they have health; this is why healthcare is so important in our lives.
Healthcare organizations like any other organization also have to be very cautious about their business and its functions. There are a lot of areas that can be changed and adjusted to get the best possible results. We can achieve this through a number of different methods.
To keep things convenient, we will only discuss one such method. The tool we will use for this article is known as the SWOT analysis, and so we will be conducting a SWOT analysis in healthcare. Most of you are probably already familiar with this tool and its application to various industries and companies.
Despite SWOT’s popularity in studying various industries, it has not been frequently applied to the healthcare industry so we can say that there is a gap.
Basically, SWOT is an acronym that enables one to analyze an organization from a broad perspective through the lens of four factors; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Before we start off, one thing to understand is the SWOT template. The internal factors in the SWOT analysis are the strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, the external factors are simply opportunities and threats.
Strengths and weaknesses can be controlled and influenced by the entity being analyzed such as a company or in this case an industry, hence they are internal. Threats and weaknesses cannot be influenced by the industry; they occur on their own and can’t be influenced. So these are external.
Conducting a SWOT analysis is very simple as long as you understand what the concept is. There are so many examples on the internet you can look at so you clearly understand how it is done.
However, if you wish to work on a SWOT analysis in healthcare organizations, here are a few guidelines you can follow:
SWOT analysis as we mostly know was created originally with the intent of being used to try to study business-oriented organizations. However as time passed and experts began to understand its versatility as a tool, it started being used for unconventional industries like healthcare organizations as well.
The first step has everything to do with data; how one can find it, access it, and compile it for further use in the analysis.
This data is very vast and cannot be explained in one para, however, some examples of what might serve as important information include the current technology being used in the industry, health conditions in the specific society, healthcare funding and its related policies, etc. Once you have all the data you will need to move on to the other steps, you can begin the work for the analysis.
One thing to be taken care of during this step is to verify the accuracy of your data. If what you have found out is false or even partially false, it will tamper with the analysis.
So make sure to use only reliable sources for this procedure and to cross-check everything.
There are certain tools that can aid your research process; we live in the era of technology so it is always smart to take its aid when possible. For example, Data Loader and ClearPoint Sync by ClearPointStrategy are two tools that can easily be hooked to a local spreadsheet without any AI or coding involved, and they are very easy to learn as well.
Once you have sufficient data, it becomes very easy to classify it into the various categories of the SWOT table. This is discussed in step 2.
In the second step, the data which has been gathered is organized into four categories. These categories are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Keep in mind that the former two factors are internal whereas the latter two are external in nature.
For instance, if you are trying to assess the financial strengths and weaknesses of the industry, you can make use of the balanced scorecard technique. If you are looking for opportunities, maybe the possibility of merging with another organization in the industry might exist?
Now you’ll clearly see exactly how the four factors influence the industry at large. Let’s better understand this concept by working on relevant examples for each factor, shall we?
Factors that have added immensely to organizational or industrial success are the strengths. These are the factors that enable the industry to be sustainable and successful.
Anything could be a strength in a certain industry but let’s just talk about a few examples such as state-of-the-art medical equipment and technology, high-quality healthcare, healthcare informatics, highly trained doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, etc.
Notice that all of these factors are controllable and have been made possible through the participants in the industry.
Factors that negatively affect healthcare quality or increase healthcare costs and liabilities are weaknesses.
Some examples of weaknesses in this industry may include outdated healthcare facilities, poor communication within the organizations leading to bad practices, insufficient training of the staff, lack of the use of healthcare informatics, etc. Being short on financial resources is also a big weakness.
All of these things can be mitigated by the efforts of the industry participants.
New business initiatives available to be taken advantage of for further growth, stability, and prosperity in this industry are the opportunities.
Some examples of the opportunities that healthcare organizations should be availing include collaborations with different organizations preferably within the same industry and the development of new programs revolving around healthcare.
Another avenue that has so much potential for growth and development in the sector is the use of technology and AI. In the Western world, even robots can perform certain complicated surgeries that were previously not possible due to the chances of human error.
Technology is the future in every industry including this one. Opportunities always exist in the external atmosphere and have to be identified to be cashed upon.
Threats are the factors that are essentially harmful to the prosperity of this industry. These are the factors we need to avoid at all costs.
Examples of what a threat could conceptualize include economic or political instability in a country which can lead to budget cuts for the industry as well. If modern healthcare demands expensive machinery; this would be a threat too because competition will become strong within the industry.
Threats exist outside of the industry’s control; they cannot be erased but they can be defended from.
The third step of SWOT analysis in healthcare involves developing a SWOT matrix for each business option that is under consideration.
The matrix is the tabular format that has four columns compiled in a square shape to make it easy to compile information.
Naturally, the information you will find out from your research will be in abundant amounts. You cannot waste time writing huge paragraphs and essays. So it is customary you derive the main point from each finding and adjust it to the relevant column.
As long as what you write conveys the needed meaning, it shall be enough.
In the fourth step of SWOT analysis in healthcare, the analysis derived is incorporated into the decision-making process as it determines which option will best suit the overall required strategic plan of the organization.
After all, we work on SWOTs to eventually figure out how to improve the status of the entity we study.
There are different strategies that can be made for the factors. The strategies you will devise to amplify strengths will be constructive in nature so you can build upon what you already have.
But if you are working to eliminate weaknesses, your strategies will be different.
Another way SWOT helps in the decision-making process is by convincing the relevant stakeholders for some decisions.
E.g. if the board of directors of a hospital has to approve a budget for an upgrade to their existing equipment, they would need to be convinced. If they have precise and clear information highlighted in the SWOT about how it will help the hospital, and what threats and weaknesses will be avoided, they would be more inclined towards agreeing.
It is one thing to understand how a SWOT analysis is conducted, it is another to work on one while keeping a few tips and tricks in mind.
Have an Unbiased Approach
If you have biases, you will most definitely overlook important information. Remember, you aren’t doing this for personal reasons, you are doing it to have a chance to accurately analyze the industry.
It takes a very strong moral compass to be able to put aside any bias that you might have either in favor of the healthcare industry or against it.
Remember to leave your emotions at the door when you are working on a SWOT. The process is sometimes tedious which can generate unwanted emotions of anger and frustration which might cloud your judgment.
Avoid Complexity and Keep it Simple
The more detail you dive into the harder you are making the process for yourself. Try to be very precise and articulate in reporting your findings so you can explain them easily.
If you make your information very dense and elaborate it into big chunks of words, many people from your desired audience will be put off from reading it.
Even if you are making the SWOT for yourself, trust me when I say you would not want to come back to read it if it is complicated and information-rich.
The entire purpose of this analysis is to keep things very simple so that important strategies can be devised using it.
Analyze Plans Rationally
It is smart to compare your plans with direct competitors to get a better idea of whether or not your work is up to par. You don’t have to look very deeply into working with indirect competitors.
However, this step might be more useful if you are working on a SWOT analysis for a specific organization. Industries generally don’t compete the same way companies do within them.
You could however still take inspiration from other industries and their best practices. Just make sure not to waste too much time doing this, especially when trying to study an industry at large.
Understand the Needed Change
As soon as you start seeing and comprehending your findings and their implications, you should immediately start mapping out the implementation of the needed changes.
Otherwise, all this work would be nearly useless. Information compiled in the SWOT will eventually be the guiding factor in making and even implementing different decisions.
As we have already discussed a few times, there are both internal as well as external factors in the SWOT.
Just make sure you understand that internal factors show you where the industry currently stands whereas the external factors show you the potential future, or multiple futures depending on what factors hold more strength.
Strengths and weaknesses should give you the vision you need to steer towards opportunities and away from unwanted threats.
If you are able to understand the nature of the changes to be made for the betterment of the industry, you are already way ahead in the game.
It is important that you know what you have to compile during the analysis when you are working on it. If what you write is too little to be comprehended, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
However if you write too much, it kind of ruins the purpose of convenience and ease. The goal should be to write things precisely, but with enough information, for it to mean something.
If you have read your way through to this point in the article, you now understand what SWOT is and more importantly how it can be applied to the healthcare industry.
Despite this concept being relatively new, you can always add to the research work of working on SWOTs for this industry so that it becomes the norm. By following these steps, not only will you be able to conduct a proper SWOT analysis in healthcare industry, you will be able to do wonders with the knowledge because you can apply the same steps with a few tweaks according to the industry to work on other analyses, such as a PEST analysis on the healthcare industry.