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Rice plans to launch strategic planning process

WILLMAR -- Rice Memorial Hospital is launching a new strategic planning process that will start Sept. 1 with a kick-off meeting for the hospital board, executive team and physician leaders.

Over the next several weeks, meetings and information-gathering will continue, focusing on the city-owned hospital's future and where its priorities should lie.

Mike Schramm, chief executive of Rice Hospital, went over the preliminary timeline with the hospital board of directors on Wednesday.

"I think you can expect it will be a solid, comprehensive planning process that you can feel comfortable with... We'll have some priorities and a road map for where we want to go," he said.

Rice Hospital has a current strategic plan that's reviewed at least once a year. It has been close to 10 years, however, since the plan has undergone any major revision or a complete overhaul. With the completion in 2006 of a $52 million hospital expansion and renovation, the hiring of Schramm this year as the new chief executive and the prospect of health care reform, Rice officials believe the time is right to redo the hospital's strategic plan.

The Wipfli consulting firm already has been hired to help with some of the data collection.

"Right now what we're doing is data-gathering," Schramm said.

The research is focusing in particular on Rice Hospital's market: the services it currently provides, its market share, demographic projections and demand for potential additional services, and specialties for which physicians might need to be recruited.

The local medical community will be involved to a far greater extent than any previous strategic planning.

Meetings, communication and possibly some type of survey will be carried out with local physicians, Schramm said. "That's going to be a key piece to the overall plan."

He said a schedule is still being put together on a series of meetings this fall with the hospital board, medical staff and hospital leaders and department heads.

The kick-off meeting on Sept. 1 will be a closed-door session. Under the Minnesota Open Meeting Law, boards of directors at publicly owned hospitals may go into closed session to discuss strategic planning issues.

"That initial board meeting will be an important one," Schramm said.

A second meeting will follow on Sept. 2 with the hospital's internal leaders and the Rice Health Foundation board.

Hospital officials haven't put a timeline on when a new strategic plan will be ready to be adopted. The process likely will take until the end of 2009, however, and could extend into next year.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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