How physician CEOs can strengthen clinical outcomes

The post-Affordable Care Act healthcare climate is particularly ripe for physician leadership, but the industry has been slow to bring physicians into the C-suite, argues a Becker's Hospital Review article.

As healthcare gives increasing weight to care value and outcomes, as well as systemic issues such as care coordination and population health management, increased physician leadership would seem an ideal solution, but a 2014 report from the American College of Physician Executives found physicians comprise only 5 percent of hospital leadership, according to the article.

While the body of research on the effects of physician leadership is small, a 2011 study in Social Science & Medicine found hospitals with physician CEOs scored roughly 25 percent higher in U.S. News & World Report's hospital rankings than those run by managers without medical backgrounds. Study author Amanda Goodall, Ph.D., noted the correlation does not necessarily prove causation, according to the Becker's article, but said that "the better hospitals will have a wider pool of CEO candidates from which to choose, because of the extra status and wealth they attract."

One of the advantages of physician leadership is doctors' unique understanding of the challenges clinical care teams face, Gary Kaplan, M.D., chairman and CEO of Seattle's Virginia Mason Health System, told Becker's. "It's not essential that CEOs be physicians," he said, "but in today's environment, having a physician at the most senior levels of leadership certainly helps change management and organizational success."

Physicians in executive positions tend to approach decisions based on the clinical delivery model, Advisory Board Executive Vice President Anthony D'Eredita told Becker's, and leaders without a clinical background can consider that perspective but lack the training and experience that comes from living it.

Physician leadership could also aid hospitals with physician engagement, which the Advisory Board Company's Annual Health Care CEO Survey found is healthcare executives' top concern. Nearly 90 percent of respondents expressed a desire to involve physicians in quality and cost improvements.

There are several ways hospitals can promote and manage physician leadership, including conducting effective evaluations, prioritizing patient-centered models and streamlining the care process, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read the survey announcement