From the Chair

Kuchka-Craig Column

Debora Kuchka-Craig, FHFMA

All right, I admit it! I'm a planner at heart. I am obsessed with the long-range weather forecast.

And I love making lists, whether it's my daily office to-do list, or my meal planning for the week (which obviously is the basis for my grocery list)! Also, my husband likes to play it by ear for our dates, but I prefer to know movie show times or to have a dinner reservation before leaving the house. Thank goodness opposites attract!

Although looking ahead comes naturally to me, I was way out of my comfort zone last week, when asked to provide my managed care reimbursement projections for our corporate long-range forecast. How can I possibly predict what reimbursement will be in 2016? I don't even know what all the reimbursement methodologies might be a few years from now.

In the midst of preparing for reform, we must all become strategic planners. This discipline has never been more important. Although the core of this function remains unchanged, applying the fundamentals when such dynamic market trends are at play is an entirely new challenge.

Collaboration between strategic and financial planning professionals has become paramount as healthcare delivery system portfolios of the future are developed and resource needs identified. And it doesn't stop there. Far from the think-tank environment of the past, healthcare planning professionals are out and about, working closely with physicians, nurses, managed care staff, IT teams, and healthcare vendor partners, as well as with finance professionals.

The focus today is on ensuring that dollars are allocated for real strategic priorities such as physician models, quality initiatives, and integration of clinical and financial data. According to my MedStar colleagues Diane Caslow (vice president of strategic and business planning) and my fellow HFMA member Susan Nelson (vice president of finance and accounting operations), collaboration is critical to effective directional framing, as there are so many competing priorities facing hospitals and healthcare systems. "While we used to deal with four priorities that we moved 10 steps, we're now working in an environment requiring us to move 10 priorities and in just four steps," says Diane. The only effective way to successfully plan and execute at this accelerated pace is through real collaboration.

If you're like me, it's hard to set aside true "thinking time," given the fast pace of our daily grind. To be successful in the future, however, leaders at all levels, and in all disciplines, must engage in the strategic planning process of the future. If you never go to the grocery store with a list in hand, or if you typically drive to the movie theater and read the show times off the sign, adopting a strategic planning approach may be somewhat more challenging for you than for those who are planners at heart-but it's no less essential. As the saying goes, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."

Publication Date: Monday, November 01, 2010

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