Leadership change afoot: Hospitals consider putting doctors in charge

The majority of U.S. hospitals do not have physicians at the helm, but that may be about to change thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Healthcare reform demands healthcare organizations turn their attention to quality care in addition to finances. But in order for greater price transparency, patient safety, cost effectiveness and accountability, physicians must serve in high-level leadership roles, according to Dallas/Fort Worth Healthcare Daily.

"Advancing physicians in key leadership roles alongside operations leaders at all levels of the system brings together a depth of clinical and operational expertise that will help us understand and address all aspects of patient care," Texas Health Resources CEO Doug Hawthorne told The Dallas/Fort Worth Healthcare Daily.

Texas Health Resources (THR), a faith-based nonprofit health system that serves 16 counties in north central Texas, recently set up three geographical zones, each led by a clinical and operations executive at the same level, according to the article. In addition, the health system has partnered with UT Southwestern to develop a healthcare management master's degree program that includes physicians that THR considers potential leaders.

"This approach," Hawthorne said, "will enable us to connect the dots along the care continuum--from wellness, prevention and primary care to acute care, rehabilitation and end-of-life care."

In 2011, a study in Social Science and Medicine found the best hospitals are run by medical physicians, not managers.

The problem, however, is hospitals that want physician executives to lead their organizations don't have a large pool of choices. There just isn't a big supply of experienced physician executives to meet the increasing demand, reports Becker's Hospital Review. The article indicates few physicians possess both clinical and administrative expertise and those that do hold advanced degrees, such as a master's in business administration or healthcare administration.

But that may also soon change as more doctors head back to school. For the first time, healthcare has more students in MIT's executive MBA program than any other industry, making up one in five members of the class of 2014, FierceHealthcare previously reported. And medical schools are taking notice. More than 50 percent now offer a joint M.D./MBA degree.

To learn more:
- read the Dallas/Fort Worth Healthcare Daily article
- here's the article from Becker's  Hospital Review
- check out the study