[Part 1] Looking Ahead: Successful Strategic Planning After COVID-19

[Part 1] Looking Ahead: Successful Strategic Planning After COVID-19

Evaluating 2020 Data—Is it Useful or Not?

By Lee Ann Lambdin 

When 2020 budgets and strategic plans were set in the fall of 2019, no one could have imagined that by the following March, they’d be useless. Plans created for 2021 may be no better off, as they were established in the midst of a pandemic. How can strategic planners start again? What data and analytics should be used when 2020 trending is out of the question?

This is the first post of a series where we’ll discuss how strategic planners can regain focus, make sense of the data collected during COVID-19, and approach planning for the future. In this post, we’ll discuss how to approach 2020 data differently. In the next two posts, we’ll offer some actionable advice. 

Let’s dive in and talk about how to reconcile 2020 data and use it effectively in strategic planning.


Is 2020 data still useful?

COVID-19 undoubtedly triggered a major blip in normal data tracking. For planners who rely on data to determine priorities, identify trends, and guide their strategy, the seeming loss of a year of data will seem daunting. What data should be considered to determine the trends in your market, to truly hone in on the shifting utilization patterns referred to above? Is healthcare data from 2020 useful, or should it be tossed out and deemed unreliable?

The short answer is yes data from 2020 is still very useful. But planners may need to adjust how they analyze it in order to fully see its value. Start by identifying which data was and wasn’t impacted by COVID-19. Surprisingly, not all the data collected in 2020 is unusable.

What changed?

  • Some care was delayed - there were fewer heart, stroke, and oncology visits
  • New data was added - COVID-19 CPT and ICD codes; Stratasan also added a COVID sub-product line
  • Patient utilization patterns shifted 
  • Historical volume trends during the COVID-19 impacted time period will be off from past volume trends 

What stayed the same?

  • There were still sick people in 2020, with issues that couldn’t wait for treatment - such as patients fighting cancer and heart attacks
  • Market share is still market share and the formula we use to track it didn’t change
  • People were still aging and in need of care that results from getting older
  • Women were still having babies and in need of maternity care 

Identifying that not all of last year’s data needs to be thrown out is a reassuring reminder. There are plenty of valuable insights to be gathered and applied for planning. 

Tracking Patterns

In order to identify how patient patterns have shifted—and recognize which new patterns are here to stay—start by talking to your doctors. See what they saw shift and change and find out which of these changes they believe will stay changed going forward. 

Stratasan’s all-payer claims data (APCD) can also provide visibility into these care patterns, as well as physician referrals and patient leakage. Our APCD provides claim level detail, is updated on a monthly basis, and includes all sites of care including hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, physician offices, and urgent cares.

It will also be essential to separate out COVID patients using the right codes in order to identify which trends were and weren’t strictly COVID related. This analysis will inform how consumer needs have shifted and help to pinpoint shifts that were likely temporary and related to the virus.

How should COVID-19 be factored into our strategic plans?

Consider what disaster plan you have in place. While a COVID-19-like crisis is hopefully not soon to be repeated, we should all still walk away from this experience with some thoughts on how we can do better in the future when big challenges arise. Some questions for healthcare providers to consider include: How can your hospital and facility be better prepared to respond to massive crisis situations like this in the future? What disaster plan do you have in place to convert acute care beds into critical care beds?

If steps need to be taken to better prepare your hospital for a future crisis situation, now is a great opportunity to factor those considerations into your strategic plan.

The Takeaway

There’s no question that COVID-19 wreaked havoc on strategic planning at every level of the healthcare continuum. A year later, we are confronted with the question of how to move forward and whether or not healthcare data from 2020 is even useful. While we’ve identified in this post that yes, it’s indeed still useful, we’ve also clarified how we need to adjust our thinking about COVID-19 data for us to truly maximize its value.

For a more in-depth discussion about how to effectively use 2020 data for strategic planning, check out this complimentary, educational presentation.

Article by Lee Ann Lambdin, SVP, Strategic Advisory Services for Stratasan



data analytics data strategy healthcare data analytics COVID-19 2020