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SWOT Analysis

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Last Update: September 4, 2023.


SWOT Analysis (short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) is a business strategy tool to assess how an organization compares to its competition. The strategy is historically credited to Albert Humphrey in the 1960s, but this attribution remains debatable.  There is no universally-accepted creator. Also known as the SWOT Matrix, it has achieved recognition as useful in differentiating and establishing a niche within the broader market. Beyond the business world, SWOT Analysis can also be applied to the individual-level to assess a person's situation versus their competition further. There are both internal and external considerations build into the tool. "Strengths" and "weaknesses" are internally-related. The former representing a facet of an organization/entity which lends it an advantage over the competition. The latter being characteristic of that same entity, which leads to a relative disadvantage against the competition. Regarding externally-related, "opportunities" are realities in the greater environment that can be exploited to benefit the entity. While on the other hand, "threats" are realities in the greater environment, which might lead to problems for the entity.

The concept of strategic fit, a ubiquitous objective sought by all organizations, can be explained as to how well the internally-related factors fit with the externally-related factors.[1]

Issues of Concern

While the SWOT analysis is widely known to facilitate the formation of organizational or personal strategy by assessing internal and external elements, it also has its criticisms. Some critics feel that the tool proves to be too superficial and formulaic, consequently hindering performance as outputs might be misunderstood or misused. This latter point is especially pertinent when SWOT analysis is attempted without real critical reflection by a collective group. Having only a few individuals perform the assessment increases the risk of misrepresentation of the SWOT inputs, leading to erroneous outputs. Also, organizations can anchor on one facet of the analysis, losing sight of the other critical elements of the matrix. Lastly, the SWOT captures the internal and external aspects of a single time-point. In reality, the environment is rapidly evolving.[2][3]

Clinical Significance

Given that the SWOT Analysis looks at factors both inside and outside an entity, it is also occasionally labeled as an Internal-External Analysis. In consideration of the broad nature of the tool, it has both organizational and individual utility. Although borne out of the business world, it does have clinical applicability such as at the organizational level.

At the level of hospital or clinical offices, implementation of SWOT is achievable by asking questions such as the following:


  • What are the organization's advantages?
  • What can you do better than others?
  • What unique or lowest-cost services can you provide patients?
  • What do patients in your market see as your organization's strength?


  • Upon what factors could the organization improve?
  • What are patients in your market likely to see as your organization's weakness?
  • What lack of services loses your organization patients?


  • What good opportunities are available to your organization?
  • What are the new and exciting trends your organization can try?
  • What new changes to governmental regulation/policy can benefit your organization?


  • What problems does your organization face?
  • Of what are your organization's competitors taking advantage?
  • Do evolving technologies and new services threatening your organization's position in the minds of patients?
  • Does your facility have cash-flow problems?
  • Could any of your weaknesses threaten quality patient care?[4][5][6]

Review Questions


Klein F, Pelzer U, Schmuck RB, Malinka T, Felsenstein M, Denecke T, Pratschke J, Bahra M. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of Centralized Pancreatic Surgery: a Single-Center Analysis of 3000 Consecutive Pancreatic Resections. J Gastrointest Surg. 2019 Mar;23(3):492-502. [PubMed: 30187320]
Issayev T, Masalimova A, Magzumova R. [SWOT-ANALYSIS OF PROFESSIONAL-PERSONAL COMPETENCE OF ECONOMISTS IN MEDICAL ORGANIZATIONS]. Georgian Med News. 2018 Mar;(276):1143-153. [PubMed: 29697398]
Tang H, Huang W, Ma J, Liu L. SWOT analysis and revelation in traditional Chinese medicine internationalization. Chin Med. 2018;13:5. [PMC free article: PMC5785906] [PubMed: 29416556]
Sørensen A, Møller MK, Andreassen P, Malling B. A SWOT analysis of how the youngest doctors perceive the formal Danish educational advisory programme. Dan Med J. 2018 Sep;65(9) [PubMed: 30187859]
Ansari M, Rassouli M, Akbari ME, Abbaszadeh A, Akbari Sari A. Educational Needs on Palliative Care for Cancer Patients in Iran: A SWOT Analysis. Int J Community Based Nurs Midwifery. 2018 Apr;6(2):111-124. [PMC free article: PMC5845115] [PubMed: 29607340]
Misbah S, Mahboob U. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis of integrating the World Health Organization patient safety curriculum into undergraduate medical education in Pakistan: a qualitative case study. J Educ Eval Health Prof. 2017;14:35. [PMC free article: PMC5801320] [PubMed: 29284217]

Disclosure: Dac Teoli declares no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies.

Disclosure: Terrence Sanvictores declares no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies.

Disclosure: Jason An declares no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies.

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Bookshelf ID: NBK537302PMID: 30725987


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