Bluewater Health launches strategic plan: for Emily

Strategic Planning. Though it’s a key activity that successful corporations undertake every three to five years, there is no single best way, nor one size fits all model.

Like all Ontario hospitals, Bluewater Health has seen continued pressure on the healthcare system, marked by increased demand for services from an aging population, new methods of care and treatment, and new models of care within ambulatory and community care settings. Leaders are taking action to transform the system, with expectations for improved access to care, expanded community partnerships, greater service integration, new performance and productivity level expectations and evolving financial incentives to support this direction. Add to this, a newly-completed $320 million capital construction project cohabitating two hospitals, and the end of a three-year strategic plan – and we had the perfect impetus for planning!

With this environmental scan front of mind, Bluewater Health’s Board of Directors determined that the current Mission, Vision, Values and five strategic themes established in 2009 (shown below), continued to position our hospitals favorably in the context of a rapidly changing health care environment and in service to our communities. According to Mike Lapaine, Vice-President, and co-lead for the organization’s strategic plan, “To start from a point of strength rather than start anew, we developed a modified planning process for the 2013-15 cycle, building upon the existing Strategic Plan. We created an internal planning process led by a Steering Committee to develop and facilitate the 8-month planning milestones. The Steering Committee was tasked with developing a process to identify the Strategic Priorities for each theme and to identify the goals and initiatives to support the Mission and reflecting both the Ministry and LHIN directions and the emerging needs of Sarnia -Lambton county residents.”

Planning Summit I

A common approach to Strategic Planning is to bring the Board, Medical and Administrative leaders together for a concentrated two or three day, off-site, strategic planning retreat. Instead, Bluewater Health created two inclusive Planning Summits, separated by several months.

The first Summit was an opportunity to share information and data with the Board and senior medical and administrative leaders describing the current state. A significant amount of pre-reading material was made available to participants including an environmental scan, market share report, community demographic profile, achievements since the last strategic plan, strengths and opportunities, and LHIN and Ministry priorities.

An important part of the planning process was gaining fulsome internal and external input on the organization’s ‘Must do! Can’t fail!’ priorities from the perspective of such stakeholders as Community and Rural Health Advisory Panel members, Foundations, staff, Professional Staff, community health service providers , volunteers and the public. A quick and easy survey was both e-mailed and website posted, and discussed through facilitated sessions and focus groups.

The feedback demonstrated a significant continuity of direction including the need to focus on the patient and family, to aggressively pursue quality and safety initiatives, to recognize the strengths and resourcefulness of our people, create innovation, build strategic relationships, optimize the new facilities and manage financial resources wisely. Almost 450 suggestions were themed, collated and summarized, helping to guide the creation of the draft strategic priority and intention statements.

The outcome of the first Planning Summit was a precise summary of the direction the organization should take as it developed strategic priorities to support our Mission.

Planning Summit II

Next, we brought the organization’s tactical team together to share the work completed to date and provide an opportunity for these leaders to offer further suggestions and tweaking before the second Planning Summit. Their input was particularly valuable when assessing the organization’s capability and resourcefulness to carry the strategic priorities and goals forward.

The second Planning Summit brought the entire leadership team together, and with clear direction from the strategic priorities, we developed eight corporate goals beginning with “We Will” statements to guide the implementation phase. To strengthen our resolve, we described what the success of each goal would mean for patients and their families and for those associated with Bluewater Health. We felt that by embedding the importance of achieving each goal for stakeholders, meaningful and realist implementation strategies would develop. Perhaps most importantly, we embedded ‘Emily’ into all we do.

Emily is a visual composite of individual photographs of staff, physicians and volunteers of Bluewater Health. She is the image of every patient and patient family we have cared for in the past, are currently caring for and will care for in the future. Sue Denomy, President and CEO said, “Each of us, no matter our individual role, has an influence on Emily’s experience of care. As we go about our day-to-day work, we are invited to consider, ‘How does what I am doing help Emily?’ and ‘Will what I’m doing make it better for Emily and her family?’” Emily’s image is displayed in hospitals in Sarnia and Petrolia and within all Strategic Plan communications.

Launching the Plan

Bluewater Health’s Strategic Plan renews the hospitals’ focus on creating exemplary healthcare experiences by embracing evidenced-informed best practice and patient and family-centered care through technology, transformation and inspired people. The plan identifies eight corporate goals:

• Embed Patient & Family-Centred Care

• Improve Access to Care

• Ingrain Patient Safety

• Advance Technology

• Achieve Financial Health

• Optimize Partnerships

• Develop Our People

• Create a Lean Culture

Stéphane Thiffeault, Chair, Bluewater Health Board of Directors said, “This Plan will contribute to improved patient experiences, improved outcomes for our patients and ultimately, the health of our community.” He extended appreciation to staff, physicians and volunteers, who he said, “are the lifeblood of the organization, and our success in implementing this Plan acknowledges their daily commitment to service at the front lines to our patients and families.”

The modified planning process proved to be very successful. When asked for process feedback, the Board and its Standing Committees:

• were grateful for the longer timeframes to receive, review and debate the input documents

• believed that the information available to them gave them greater confidence that the final strategic priorities chosen were the most appropriate to guide Bluewater Health for the coming three years

• were supportive of the two-step approach, which minimized stress and logistics compared to the typical 2 to 3 day weekend retreat

• expressed confidence that the in-house approach and stakeholder inclusiveness was a strength of the process

• were pleased to see the congruence brought forward from the simple “Must do! Can’t fail” feedback.

After final approval by the Board, we prepared to launch our Strategic Plan across the entire organization and beyond to the Sarnia-Lambton community. At celebratory events, led by the Board Chair and CEO, internal and external stakeholders had the opportunity to connect with Steering Committee members who accompanied storyboard exhibits, discussing the theme, priorities, goals, and expected outcomes of each strategic direction. Concludes Denomy, “We are excited about this Plan which reflects the vision of the way we want and need to be and where our strategic themes, priorities and goals will take us….To provide exemplary healthcare experiences for patients and families every time.”

For more information, please contact Mike Lapaine, VP Operations, Chief Operating Officer,, 519-464-4452, Ext. 4722.