This issue of the Journal of Oncology Management focuses on Strategic Planning, Skills, and Workplace Design.  These three very different topics have two common threads.  First, they all fall under the category of strategy.  Second, having a successful set of strategies in these three areas will contribute to the long term viability of a cancer program. 

There is little debate about the increasing level of competition among clinical and cancer programs.  Further, there is general acknowledgement that reimbursement for cancer services (for all providers) is among the leanest of all clinical programs nationally.  However, many cancer programs today do not have an adequate set of strategies to guide them into the future, knowing full well of the challenges that face them.  Why?  The caption in one of my favorite cartoons reads: “When you loose your sense of direction, you end up as someone else’s lunch”.  Yet, how many cancer program leaders and hospital executives feel immune from such a peril? 

In this issue of the Journal of Oncology Management, we have tried to provide you with practical insight into several topics that will provide you with tools to build and strengthen your strategies.  As you read this issue and think about your cancer program, ask yourself if you know the answers to the following questions: 

1.      Does your cancer program have a strategic plan?  If it does, are potential points of physician partnership opportunities and strategies clearly articulated?

2.      Does your program have a marketing plan?  Are there strategies to effectively differentiate you program for your key competition?

3.      Does your program have a facility and technology development strategy?  Are they supported by capacity and operational assumptions that contribute to cost efficient operations?

4.      Does your program have a strategy for recruiting and retaining staff?  What is unique about the work environment in your program that will convince candidates to join your team?

5.      Does part of the annual planning for your program include a business oriented financial analysis based on real costs, and assumptions about reimbursement and market share, or is the program primarily focused on staying within its budget?

6.      Do the clinical and administrative leaders in your program have a sense of direction for the program?  Is there agreement on that direction?

All too often, many cancer programs today are falling victim to the perils of an increasingly challenging environment.  The causes of these stumbles typically relate to simple factors.  Lack of one or more of the following:

u Leadership

u      A vision, plan, and strategy for the program.

u      A realistic understanding of what the market and environment holds for the future.

u      Communications

u      Appropriate business and market focus.

Granted, while these factors may be simple to determine and understand, let there be no confusion about their origin.  Successful strategy is by far a product of leadership.  For cancer programs to remain viable and grow, the heavy lifting will require leadership at all levels of a healthcare enterprise and within the cancer program to agree on a course to chart.

The call to lead when there is none and where there are risks is by itself the truest demonstration of an individual’s capacity to lead.  The alternative to become someone else’s lunch is (and should be) an undesirable strategy.

Best regards,

Joseph M. Spallina, FAAMA, FACHE
American College of Oncology Administrators [email protected]