As reimbursement drives change from a fee-for-service system of care to a value-based environment, now, more than ever, the health care industry is seeking leaders who can manage significant improvement in three key areas: clinical outcomes, quality, and resource utilization.
While a majority of hospital executive officers are non-physician leaders, more and more health care organizations are recognizing the value of having physicians in the C-suite, and how their firsthand connection to patient care can influence the success of the organization and overall health of their communities.
Here are three ways physicians can serve as effective change agents for their organizations.
Clinical approach to leadership
Physicians tend to take a clinical approach in their leadership roles, with patients and quality of care at the center. For example, when the conversation moves from financials to patient safety statistics, physician administrators take these figures very personally. Having been involved in the care of patients, day in and day out, they know these are not simply numbers to regulate and report. They are people.
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Often, physician executives have an added sensitivity to humanize the operational side of health care and bring deep insight to care decisions that may increase value to patient outcomes and satisfaction, as well as having a positive impact on reimbursement.
Emphasis on quality
A 2011 Social Science & Medicine study found, among the 300 American hospitals top-ranked by U.S. News & World Report, overall hospital quality scores were nearly 25% higher in those with physician executives compared to those run by leaders with non-medical backgrounds.
Too often, an organization’s quality efforts are separated from other key initiatives like cost rebalancing, population health, strategic positioning, provider integration, and consumerism. Physician leaders can help bridge this gap: meeting patient care needs and delivering on operational and financial goals.
Organizations that prioritize quality care—that is, care that is safe, effective, timely, efficient, coordinated, and patient-centered—often find that the financial benefits follow. At the core of delivering high-quality care is the ability to appropriately manage the organization’s resources and reduce variation in the care provided. With their hands-on experience in patient care, physician administrators can enhance standards and processes to ensure clinical teams care for patients at the right level of care, at the right time, utilizing the right resources, at the right cost.
Medical staff engagement
In a 2018 national survey of physicians, athenahealth found those who are satisfied with their leadership are more engaged at work, have greater job satisfaction and are less likely to experience signs of burnout than those who are unhappy with their leaders.
There has long been a division between a health care organization’s administration and its medical staff. To be successful, however, the two must be aligned.