3 new roles for CMOs

Chief medical officers are some of the most vital members of a healthcare leadership team, and several factors have expanded their responsibilities, writes healthcare economist and policy expert Paul Keckley.

Earlier this year, the Navigant Center for Healthcare Research and Policy Analysis, for which Keckley serves as managing director, conducted a focus group of eight CMOs to discuss their shifting roles and what they need to be effective in their positions, Keckley writes in a post on Navigant's website. CMOs' roles have expanded not only in hospitals, he writes, but also in medical groups, health insurers and post-acute facilities. The changing nature of the healthcare industry is laying a range of new responsibilities at CMOs' feet, including:

Physician engagement: Physicians have long valued their independence, according to Keckley, but many have little choice but to adjust to healthcare's emerging status quo of increased performance transparency, team-based care and clinical integration. It is up to CMOs to engage the more skeptical physicians as organizations make these transitions, Keckley writes.

Provider-sponsored risk: As both private payers and government payers such as Medicare and Medicaid shift more risk to providers, CMOs must make sure physicians cooperate enough for the shared risk to be sustainable. This means they must coordinate care in a way that allows care teams to collaborate on clinical decisions. "Getting physicians to collaborate is often easier said than done," he writes, "especially when money is at risk."

"Super" health systems: As healthcare trends towards larger regional health systems, many of them with self-sponsored health plans, CMOs must adjust to large roles within these organizations' infrastructures, as the consolidation necessary to create them means sorting out inefficiencies, cultural friction and complicated questions of workflow and leadership, writes Keckley.

As the nature of the healthcare system changes, CMOs also increasingly collaborate with chief financial officers despite historical friction between the two positions, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read Keckley's article