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Strategize partnerships with SWOT analysis

September 22, 2015
by Jeff Capobianco
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The new reality for behavioral healthcare providers is the trend toward partnership opportunities, in which they’re teaming up with a variety of primary and specialty providers. But why?

Chiefly it’s because:

  •  New economic realities demand cost containment;
  •  New efficiencies resulting from staff working in interdisciplinary teams are increasingly required;
  •  Policy changes require improved care coordination and access to services;  and
  •  Most importantly, a single point of entry to multiple providers affords patients greater convenience.

While many providers will wrestle with the new realities, there’s a proven method for weighing the risks and benefits of potential partnerships before diving in.

The “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” (SWOT) analysis is a well known strategic planning approach that leadership teams could use to help make the partnership call.  SWOT is not a standalone analysis. Lawyers would call it “the discovery phase” as leaders gather all the relevant necessary information to make a formal analysis. 

Four components

The four components to the process break down along internal aspects and external factors. Strengths and weaknesses pertain to information gathered from internal aspects of your organization, and are largely controllable. Opportunities and threats, on the other hand, focus on the external factors, which are largely uncontrollable.

When conducting your own SWOT analysis, open up the process to a large, diverse group of your staff members. Have each staff person spend time alone prior to the group activity responding in detail to the questions the group must consider. This research-based approach helps prevent groupthink and allows less vocal staff to share their thoughts. It is worth reminding staff to be realistic about the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, be specific, backup all responses with evidence, and prioritize responses in order of importance.

The following SWOT partnership checklist captures fundamental questions behavioral health providers should consider before creating a partnership:

Strengths (internal):

o   What are the advantages to current/past partnerships?

o   What did our current/past partners find advantageous about working with our organization?

o   How did we leverage current/past partnerships to create profit, improve care or expand market access?

o   What do we do well when it comes to partnering with various agencies in our community?

o   Does our organization have a good reputation as a partner? 

Weaknesses (internal):

o   What could be improved with our current/past partnerships?

o   What is/has been done poorly with current/past partnerships?

o   Are there aspects to partnering that we have not been able to execute in the past? If so, have this/these issue(s) been corrected?

o   Do we have thorough understanding of the legal, cost and quality metrics needed to develop a strategic business plan?

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