Do you run a clinic and want to conduct SWOT analysis? If YES, here is a detailed guide on how to do SWOT analysis for hospitals or healthcare centers.

In order to ensure that a hospital or healthcare center (and in fact any other form of business) is performing at its best, there is a need to make certain adjustments from time to time. However, you can’t just randomly make changes to different aspects of your hospital or healthcare center simply because change is necessary.

You will first need to determine the areas that ought to be changed. To determine the areas where adjustments need to be made, a number of methods can be used. One of these methods is a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis allows for the assessment of an organization from a neutral perspective through a detailed discussion of the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Steps to Conducting SWOT Analysis in a Hospital or a Healthcare Center

Originally, SWOT analysis was designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of businesses that are in other industries, however, as time went on, people who saw its benefits are prompting its use in healthcare industry as well. Here are the steps to follow to conduct SWOT analysis in a hospital or a heath care center.

1. Gather data: the very first step of carrying out a SWOT analysis involves the compilation and assessment of key data. This might include the community’s health status, present status of medical technology, or the sources of healthcare funding. Once the appropriate (and correct) data has been composed and analyzed, the capabilities of the organization are evaluated.

2. Categorize the collected data: next you will have to categorize the data you have been able to collect into four categories, which are; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). The strengths and weaknesses of the organization are internal factors, while opportunities and threats normally are a result of external factors playing their part.

a. Internal factors: strengths and weakness both originate internally and are made up of things that you can control. Strengths are helpful while Weaknesses are harmful.

Strengths: these are your capabilities and resources that can be the basis of a distinct competitive advantage. You should ask; what are the most important strengths? How can we best use them and capitalize on each strength? Your Strengths can include:

  • a new and/or innovative service
  • capabilities or cost advantages
  • cultural connections
  • extraordinary reputation
  • other aspects that add value
  • special expertise and/or experience
  • superior location or geographic advantage

Weaknesses: these are areas in which you are not too good at and need to improve on or need to be avoided entirely. You should ask; what would remove or overcome this weakness? Weaknesses can sometimes be the absence of certain strengths, and in some cases, a weakness may be the reverse side of one of your strengths. Weaknesses might include:

  • absence of marketing plan
  • damaged reputation
  • gaps in capabilities or service areas
  • lagging in technology
  • management or staff problems
  • vulnerability
  • poor location or geographic barriers
  • undifferentiated service lines

b. External Factors: these factors originate externally and they usually represent an opportunity that you are yet to take advantage of or a factor that can turn into a weakness if not addressed immediately or in the near future. Opportunities are helpful while threats are harmful.

Opportunities: In addition to new or significant trends, what other external opportunities exist and how can we best exploit or benefit from each? Examples might include:

  • a market vacated by a competitor
  • availability of new technology
  • changes in population profile or need
  • Competitor vulnerabilities
  • lack of dominant competition
  • new market segment that offer improve profit
  • new vertical, horizontal, or niche markets

Threats: Can include anything that stands in the way of your success. No practice is immune to threats, but too many people miss, ignore or minimize these threats, often at great cost. Ask: What can be done to mitigate each threat? Can a threat become an opportunity? Threats could include:

  • a competitor has an innovative product or service
  • a new competitor(s) in your home market
  • adverse changes in reimbursement or regulations
  • changing insurance plans and/or contracts for major area employers
  • competitors have superior access to channels of distribution
  • economic shifts
  • loss of key staff or associates
  • new or increased competition
  • seasonality
  • shifts in market demand or referral sources

3. SWOT Matrix: you will then have to develop a SWOT matrix for each business option that is under consideration.

4. Internalize the results: the final steps of SWOT analysis in healthcare involves incorporating the analysis you have made into the decision making process and determine which option will best suit the overall strategic plan of the organization.

7 Rules for Conducting a Successful SWOT Analysis

  1. Be Specific: Avoid gray areas, vague descriptions or fuzzy definitions.
  2. Be Objective: Ask for input from a well-informed but objective third party; compare it with your own notes.
  3. Be Realistic: Use a down-to-earth perspective, especially as you evaluate strengths and weaknesses. Be practical in judging both sections.
  4.  Apply Context: Distinguish between where the organization actually is today, and where it could be in the future.
  5. Contrast and Compare: Analyze (realistically) in relation to your competition i.e. better than or worse than your competition.
  6. Short and Simple: Avoid needless complexity and over-analysis.
  7. Update your marketing plan and goals: Once the key issues have been identified, define the action steps to achieve change.

An Example of a Nursing Based SWOT Analysis

Here is an example of a nurse working within a primary care clinic who wants to improve the relationship with their patients. The SWOT analysis will go like this:

TASK:

  1. Define the goal and measurable outcomes – i.e. to have less than 50% of patients spending one hour waiting for treatment
  2. Consider the current activities you have in place to encourage patient-partnerships within your clinic.
  3. Complete a SWOT analysis, identifying your current strengths and realistically appraising your current weaknesses. This can only be done involving other nurses, doctors, support staff and patients.
  4. From the current analysis identify factors which could be improved
  5. Identify opportunities that could be created
  6. Put a plan and set of measures in place.

The clinic identified the following objective:

  • To improve parent-partnership by encouraging patients to visit the clinic and become active members of the community.
  • Outcome – to have less than 50% of patients waiting more than one hour for treatment

Currently, the clinic holds an open day once each year. It uses this as a way to encourage patients to visit the clinic and engage with clinic staff. The following is the initial SWOT Analysis.

STRENGTHS

  • Highly-skilled clinical staff.
  • History of successful Open day events
  • Clinic has a strong ethos of openness, sharing and commitment to increasing patient confidence
  • Patients wanting to get involved
  • Local charities willing to participate

WEAKNESSES

  • Nurses not available to meet patients often enough
  • Current open day events not increasing voluntary activity
  • Not enough staff time to plan more events
  • Staff not clear of their role in the patient relationship
  • Narrow focus on open events not partnership activities
  • Services too stretched for additional activity

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Active volunteer committee willing to plan and organize events
  • Patients active in the clinic’s Patient Participation Project can be asked for their opinions and suggestions.
  • Head Nurse is willing flex clinic times to free up clinical staff time
  • Use patients to contribute to practice delivery

THREATS

  • Confidentiality is at risk
  • Patient coercion to do things they do not wish to do

The next step is to develop a plan with interested stakeholders.

In conclusion, SWOT analysis may appear to be a very simple undertaking, but you should avoid the temptation of rushing it over or doing it in a very casual way.

Ideally, a SWOT analysis should be carried out at least once every year or even twice a year. It’s a “big picture” exercise that challenges you to compile, analyze and evaluate the significant influences that work for or against your strategic objectives.

A SWOT analysis is useful for hospitals, medical groups, and individuals in private practice —it helps focus your marketing in areas that harbor the strongest benefits.