Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Environmental Scanning in Health Care

Environmental Scanning (ES) is the process of examining an organization's external environment by reviewing information from news sources, experts, consultants, researchers, and other information sources. This process has been used by many business organizations for some time. And health care organizations are currently among the users. Probably the best-known documentation of the ES process is the book by Francis Joseph Aguilar entitled "Scanning the Business Environment," published in 1967.
ES can be the keystone of strategic thinking. By strategic thinking, we mean the mental process that enables an organization to initiate the appropriate actions that create the future the organization wants. And to form the strategy that embodies the appropriate actions, the organization needs to do systematic environmental scanning. By systematic, we mean that the scanning should be a structured process designed to deliver the strategy-related information the organization needs.
As part of a structured process, the organization needs to determine how it wants to classify the information. There are various schemes that organizations use to categorize the information found through scanning. One of the best known schemes is PEST, where "P" stands for POLITICAL, where "E" stands for ECONOMIC, where "S" stands for SOCIAL, and where "T" stands for "TECHNOLOGICAL." A discussion of these four elements in found in the book, "Macroenvironmental Analysis for Strategic Management," by Liam Fahey and V.K. Narayanan. Again, there are other schemes, and an organization should choose or devise the best scheme for the organization.
When establishing a scanning process, an organization should know why it wants to do environmental scanning. The organization should know what the scanning results will be used for. The organization should know who is going to do the scanning. And the organization should know who is going to use the scanning results. With this knowledge, the organization can insure that the most relevant results are delivered to the most appropriate users.
The organization also needs to determine how the scanning results will be formatted. For example, each piece of information should probably be accompanied by a title, the information's source, date, a summary or excerpt, and a strategic assessment of the information. This assessment will give the information some relevance. Relevance is important. If the scanning results are not relevant, the report, containing the scanning results, may not be used.
As we said earlier, health care organizations are among the users of environmental scanning. And the scanning has been beneficial. While writing about environmental scanning in health care, a researcher concluded that, "Environmental scans are now a recognized and valuable tool in health decision making."
Further, "As a tool to systematize knowledge, ESs can guide health organizations and projects, leading to evidence-based solutions to health care issues." So health care providers, including obesity medicine providers, might consider environmental scanning as a way to enhance their strategic thinking,


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