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How do you create strategic and business plans for a rural health network?

For rural health networks, strategic and business planning are separate, but related, organizational processes for envisioning the future and designing the steps to get there.  Strategic planning involves defining the process to guide members of an organization to define goals and objectives and develop necessary procedures and operations necessary to achieve them.  Business planning is the next step that involves assessing potential ventures identified during strategic planning.

The first step in creating strategic and business plans is scanning the environment to identify member organizations, the people in the communities it serves, the health care market in which the network does business, and the geographic region where it is located.  The goal of this exercise is to understand the network membership and issues that affect it.

Once issues have been identified, the next step is to focus on goals for the network.  This involves making a determination regarding the severity of a particular issue and whether the network can do anything to address it.  Once potential strategic priorities and solutions have been identified, the network leadership also needs to contemplate possible risks of an activity to the network.  They also need to consider potential returns and the readiness of the network to undertake the specific activity.  After these determinations have made, a list of strategic goals can be finalized.

The final step for strategic planning is the actual creation of the strategic implementation plan based on the goals identified.  This plan details the course of action that the network must take to achieve its strategic goals identified.  The strategic implementation plan should then be periodically reviewed and revised to meet the network's evolving goals.

Once the initial strategic plan is drafted, the business planning process can commence.  This involves using a structured process to evaluate selected business opportunities that have been identified during strategic planning.  In general, the creation of a business plan involves the following six steps: 1) defining the business, 2) analyzing the market, 3) projecting demand, targeting market share, and developing a marketing strategy, 4) developing organizational and management models, 5) assessing financial and mission implications of the business, and 6) putting it all together into a final plan.

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