In this fast-paced, ever-evolving world of ours, organizations who regularly assess their performance, market position and the “big picture” tend to be the most successful… and the healthcare industry is no exception!
Take the COVID-19 pandemic for example. Remember how certain healthcare organizations were able to rise to the occasion despite these destabilizing events? I certainly do. (Looking at you, telehealth.)
My point is, a SWOT analysis in healthcare can help organizations make strategic moves and get ahead of situations — even when they’re totally unprecedented. This strategic evaluation tool is hugely beneficial for hospitals and medical practices that face unique challenges from other lines of business.
So in this article, I’ll discuss exactly what a SWOT analysis in healthcare is, and why you need to do it. Keep reading to learn more about this assessment technique and how you can apply it to your healthcare organization.
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- What is a SWOT analysis in healthcare?
- What can healthcare businesses learn from a SWOT analysis?
- Elements of a healthcare SWOT analysis
- Examples of a SWOT analysis in healthcare
- How to create a healthcare SWOT analysis?
- SWOT analysis in healthcare: 5 benefits for healthcare processes and patients
- SWOT analysis in healthcare FAQs
What is a SWOT analysis in healthcare?
Shorthand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, a SWOT analysis is a simple and practical evaluation model. As a gold standard technique for strategic planning, this exercise helps you understand the internal and external conditions that can make or break your healthcare service offerings, sales operations and marketing plans.
Here’s a quick video that explains what a SWOT analysis is in more detail:
When it comes to the healthcare industry in particular, conducting a regular SWOT analysis is vital to ensure an organization performs well. It does this by pointing out the areas where you excel and where you can improve.
Below is a visual representation of this technique. Typically, each category explores aspects of a healthcare organization’s performance, resources and competitive position in the marketplace. These points are then arranged into a matrix for quick scanning.
What can healthcare businesses learn from a SWOT analysis?
As we’ve seen in recent years, the healthcare industry can be an extremely competitive and volatile environment —one that’s constantly evolving. That’s why conducting a SWOT analysis enables hospitals, medical practices and other healthcare organizations to stay afloat despite major shifts in the market.
By identifying internal strengths to be played up, noting internal weaknesses and external threats to be minimized, and showcasing hidden opportunities that can be seized, a healthcare SWOT analysis puts an organization in a prime position to compete.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these components.
Elements of a healthcare SWOT analysis
Though conducting SWOT analysis for your healthcare organization is easy enough to do, you must approach the task thoughtfully (read: objectively) to reap the full rewards.
To help you with this, the following section takes a look at each element of a healthcare SWOT analysis. I also explore the kinds of questions you can ask to arrive at these conclusions.
Yep, you guessed it: strengths are the areas your healthcare organization excels at, and the qualities that set you apart from your competitors. From special skills and unique equipment, to accessible rates and first-class client programs, these are the ingredients you have direct control. They give you a relative competitive advantage.
Your organization’s Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) are a good place to start. Analyze what it is exactly that makes customers choose you, and identify strategies to help you maximize each of those strengths. Note that your strengths can also be intangibles like brand loyalty, or an established brand name in the market.
Some questions you can ask to identify your strengths are:
- What do patients and clients love about your brand or services?
- What inspires new clients and customers to come to your practice?
- What does your practice do better than others in your industry?
- What advantages do you have over local competitors?
- What kind of talent do you employ?
- What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
- What are some positive attributes about your brand?
- What resources and technologies do you have that your competitors do not?
- Are there any markets you have unique access to?
- Are your service offerings diverse and varied?
A word of warning: it can be difficult to be objective in your self-assessments. Make sure to list your strongest points, and try not to overinflate your abilities.
Weaknesses are areas of your organization that could be improved. Like strengths, weaknesses are internal factors that you have direct control over. Some examples of weaknesses in healthcare include aspects like outdated healthcare facilities, inefficient information systems and lack of manpower or training.
Questions you can ask to identify your weaknesses are:
- What do your patients or clients dislike about your brand or services?
- Why do your patients or clients churn?
- What problems or complaints are mentioned frequently in negative reviews?
- What could your brand or organization be doing better?
- What are the negative attributes about your brand?
- Are there issues with your staffing? (i.e. retention or attrition)
- What are the biggest challenges your organization faces in terms of revenue?
- What resources or technologies do your competitors have that you do not?
- Which markets do you not have access to?
- Do you have poor differentiation from your competitors?
Again, it can be difficult to take an objective view here. Psychology tells us that most people tend to overestimate their competencies, so you’ll need to make a real effort to get real with yourself about the challenges your organization faces.
Bring multiple perspectives to the table and sift through your weaknesses as thoroughly and objectively as possible. That way, you can construct plans that actually address the real issues that hinder your success, and nudge your organization toward its full potential.
Opportunities are external factors that you can leverage (read: exploit) to gain a competitive advantage. These areas are aspects of untapped potential, including: market trends, new technology and shifts in consumer habits and behavior.
If your healthcare organization is able to rise to the occasion and meet these needs, you’ll be able to boost patient/client acquisition and retention.
Some questions you can ask to identify opportunities are:
- Are there any upcoming medical or patient trends that you can capitalize on?
- Are there regulatory changes that can benefit your ability to do business?
- Are there new client preferences or buying behaviors you stand to benefit from?
- What emerging technologies do you have the ability to access?
- Are there any special conditions that can place your medical practice in a better position?
Because opportunities arise outside your organization, be sure to constantly monitor industry activity and conduct regular market research. With a little creativity and proactivity, you can very well hit the jackpot, and capitalize on that which others miss.
The fourth and last SWOT element addresses threats. These aspects represent the external factors that could impede your strategies and harm your organization’s ability to compete in the market.
As such, shifts in the competitive landscape are prime examples of threats. The arrival of new competitors, a new service offering introduced by a competing brand, economic fluctuations and changing regulations all fall into this category.
Some questions you can ask to identify threats are:
- What economic difficulties does your organization face?
- What moves are competitors making that could impact your business?
- Which technological advancements are making your facilities seem obsolete?
- What supply chain issues threaten your ability to serve clients?
- Which regulatory conditions hinder your chance at success?
TLDR: The more you know, the better. By proactively identifying these challenges, you can reassess your strategies to account for, and mitigate, the impact of all of the above.
Examples of a SWOT analysis in healthcare
Now that you’re familiar with the building blocks of a SWOT analysis, let’s take a look at some SWOT templates to help you visualize how this process works.
As mentioned, a SWOT analysis diagram is typically segmented into four parts — one per category. Most templates use quadrants or matrices, though other systems of division (like those shown in the examples below) can do the trick.
The above example of a competitive SWOT Analysis uses a modified quadrant system to depict each element. And that’s exactly why SWOT analyses are so great! This strategic tool is highly flexible, and can be used to discern not just an organization’s overall standing, but specific facets — such as one’s competitive positioning — too.
How to create a healthcare SWOT analysis?
Ready to apply this strategic planning technique to your medical practice or healthcare organization? Follow these steps to get started!
Step 1: Define your objective and collect your data
To borrow from what I wrote previously re: conducting a marketing SWOT analysis, the first step to successfully create a healthcare SWOT analysis is to identify what your intention is.
For example: are you looking to assess your overall business plan? Or alter your current trajectory? Are you thinking about entering a new market? Or trying out a new technology?
No matter the specific use case, know that the more specific your intention, the more useful the outcomes of your analysis will be.
Second, know this: Cold, hard facts are king. Meaning, any evaluation must be grounded in them to be useful.
As such, you should start your SWOT analysis by gathering all the data you need to make a sound assessment. Examples of this include: patient logs, insurance claim records, staff databas and customer/employee feedback, among others.
Listen, I get it — your libraries and archives are chock-full of information. So to streamline the process, be sure to select only what’s relevant to your current situation and strategies, or those that you’re working to analyze.
Of course, not all the information in your SWOT analysis will be data-driven — some will be based on qualitative assessments. But in order to be as objective as possible, try to supplement your reporting with factual evidence. This will bolster any strategic insights that do arise.
Step 2: Extract and classify your SWOT elements
Now it’s time to turn all that data into actionable information!
A systematic review will show trends and insights that you can then classify as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats. Pull this information from your research and categorize them accordingly, then write them out in point-form (being concise is key if you want a readily scannable document).
Next up, I’ll discuss how you can use data visualizations to impress any audience with your SWOT superbness. To start, however, you may find it useful to create a rough draft on a loose sheet of paper. This outline can guide you once you diagram your findings later on.
(Apologies for sounding like a broken record, but make sure to be as objective as possible when scanning your data. This ensures your SWOT analysis leads to truthful, realistic and actionable insights about your organization — all good things to be).
Step 3: Use Venngage to visualize your data in a SWOT matrix
So you’ve put in all the work — now it’s time to polish.
With Venngage, it’s easy to serve up this vital information in a sleek, versatile and professional way… and all without any graphic design expertise. Simply sign up for a free Venngage account to access hundreds of customizable SWOT analysis templates.
Once you’ve logged in and selected a template, you can start customizing it and swap out or add any assets (i.e. text, icon and colors etc) into your design.
But wait, there’s more!
Looking to keep your branding consistent? Venngage’s My Brand Kit lets you apply your brand colors and logos to any template with one click.
Want to get more eyeballs on your SWOT analysis before you present it? Team collaboration features allow you to invite members to your team in Venngage, edit designs together in real time, leave comments, create folders, save your creations as templates and more.
Step 4: Conduct your analysis and determine action items
Once you’ve got your datafied ducks in a row and organized them in a neat and legible matrix, it’s time to study up and share!
When you’re done creating your SWOT analysis in Venngage, you can share or download a high-resolution version either for personal use, presentations and business communications. Then, take the insights gained and use them to inform your plans, or re-calibrate any existing strategies.
Note: Sharing is available free-of-charge, while a Premium or Business plan allows you to export your creations to PNG, PDF, HTML and Powerpoint. These plans also give you access to the awesome features mentioned above.
SWOT analysis in healthcare: 5 benefits for healthcare processes and patients
To summarize, here’s what a SWOT analysis can do for your medical practice or other healthcare organization.
Power up your strategy
First and foremost, the information derived from a SWOT analysis helps you strategize more effectively. By providing a high level overview of your positioning and competitive stake, SWOT gives you the ability to maximize your strengths, minimize your weaknesses and seize opportunities.
This can also help you fine-tune your marketing, communications and patient education strategies.
Build upon your strengths and bolster your returns
Indeed, being aware of your organization’s strengths via SWOT helps you maximize your strategic advantages. This not only ensures your best qualities are put to good use — it also significantly increases their impact and returns.
For example, if your healthcare organization has high patient satisfaction, you can use this information as social proof when reaching out to new markets.
Convert weaknesses into strengths
Being proactive is always better than being reactive.
Much in the same way, being aware of the areas your organization needs to improve allows you to address them before they become a major problem. By identifying exactly what you need to work on, a SWOT analysis puts you in the best position to mitigate concerns as easily as possible.
For example: if your healthcare organization has a high turnover rate but partners with local universities, you could supplement your staffing with students who are eager to gain experience in the field.
Discover opportunities to boost your strengths and conquer your weaknesses
The great thing about this strategic planning technique is that it gives you a big-picture perspective, so you can determine how to best use the opportunities that come your way.
Like the example above, you can use these areas to supplement, expand or support your existing set of strengths, and answer any gaps brought about by your weaknesses.
Plan for possible challenges and threats to the status quo
To be clear, external threats are a natural part of any competitive landscape. However, by anticipating them and having an action plan ready, you can minimize their negative impact on your operations. A SWOT analysis helps you do this by revealing the possible sources of such threats, so you can take steps to protect your organization from them.
For example: if you know your patients are hesitant to show up because of safety concerns, your organization could offer virtual appointments instead.
SWOT analysis in healthcare FAQs
What is SWOT analysis in nursing?
Besides helping healthcare organizations at large, SWOT analyses can benefit specific branches and departments too.
For instance, in nursing – a crucial component of the healthcare system – this strategic planning technique allows management to better identify the strengths and weaknesses of their nursing teams and staff, as well as identify the opportunities and threats that could affect their performance.
What threats would a nurse face?
As we’ve discussed, there are many threats that can impede a healthcare organization’s viability. In nursing specifically, some threats include the following factors:
- Job openings at competing organizations or markets
- Severe staff shortages
- Burnout and apathy
- Dwindling nursing student enrollment
- Increasingly heavy workloads
- Workplace violence
- Inadequate safety measures
- Stagnant wages
What are threats to a hospital?
Common threats faced by hospitals include major shifts in the market, such as:
- New competitors
- New technologies that could replace specific skills or services
- Changes to healthcare policies or regulations
- Shortage of tools, equipment and supplies
- Lack of funding
- Geographical roadblocks
Curious to know more? Many of the challenges faced by healthcare organizations during the pandemic could be categorized as threats, since they resulted from external factors affecting these industries.
All set to start your healthcare SWOT analysis?
Congrats, you’re well on your way to becoming a superstar SWOTter!
Now that you understand the basics of SWOT analysis and its many potential applications, it’s time to make this powerful strategic tool work for your own unique healthcare organization. As a result, you’ll be able to keep your current performance on point, all while strategizing for the future and staying ahead of the competition.
With Venngage, you can get a head start on this process with professionally designed and pre-made SWOT analysis templates. Click the big green button below to sign up for free, and gain access to hundreds of handy charts you can customize to suit your needs.