Navvis & Company Survey Finds Physician Executive Roles Continue to Evolve

TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 24, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent survey of chief medical officers at health systems and hospitals in the United States revealed a growing trend of physician executives with clinical duties and that more physician executives are going through formal training and education.

These findings were published in the Physician Executive Leadership Center's (PELC) annual compensation survey for 2009-2010. PELC has executed the survey with chief medical officers in hospitals and integrated systems since the early 1980s.

The survey indicated that the percentage of full time CMOs in hospitals and systems who have clinical duties was 15%, up from 12% last year. Interestingly, those with clinical responsibilities earn about 10% less in compensation. On the flip side, they report working fewer hours than their colleagues who don't have clinical duties. Both CMOs with and without clinical responsibilities are the same average age, and have been in their positions an average of five years. However, the group of CMOs with greater clinical duties has had more years of clinical practice before entering into management.

The results of the PELC compensation surveys over the past several years suggest that one of the credentials of significance for CMOs is an advanced management degree. This iteration of the survey results implies that its value is increasing. These executives are an average age of 55 years and have been in their current positions an average five years. A significant percentage of CMOs currently in this senior position have or are pursuing a management degree. The percentage of hospital and system physician executives who either already have an advanced management degree or are currently pursuing one has increased from about 60% in 2001 to more than 80% in 2009. The degrees of choice for this group are an MBA or a specialized MMM degree.

"Based on that information, we can safely assume that pursuit of the advanced degree is self-motivated," said Aamir Rehman, MD, senior vice president at Navvis & Company, the parent corporation of PELC. "We believe that in most of these cases these experienced physician leaders are driven to acquire even more credentials in their fields. Their organizations can only benefit from this activity, so it is a positive finding."

The survey results also revealed that there is a younger group of people in executive roles. However, the average age of participants in the surveys, and presumably a reasonable representation of the CMO group, is higher by a couple years. The average age of the CMO was 53 in 2001 but currently the average age is 55. Physicians in these positions remain in their jobs into their late sixties, so it follows that there have to be younger participants in order to bring the averages down to 55. It is possible that the physicians in these positions have pushed retirement off and could potentially influence younger physician executives.

There's greater variation in executive roles such as Chief Medical Information Officers. The survey found that of the respondents who served in senior level executive positions other than chief medical officer, half had a title of "chief quality officer" or "chief medical information officer" or other titles close enough to describe their roles as pertaining to either quality or IT. In the previous year's survey report, only about 20% had these title variations.

"This suggests that hospitals and systems are shifting the emphasis to include formal involvement of physician executives in quality and informatics issues on a full time basis," Dr. Rehman said, "and not on an informal basis, which may have been the case in earlier years."

Other findings from the survey:

  • Virtually all participants feel that their move into management was an excellent decision and they are mostly satisfied with their career and current situations. However, 15% indicated dissatisfaction with their current position, citing significant changes in their duties from previous years resulting in more responsibilities, suggesting that they like being a physician executive but not necessarily in their present situation.
  • Chief Medical Officers plan to work beyond the traditional age of retirement and thirty percent of this group plan to work until they are 70 years of age. Even those who plan to retire from their current positions still plan to continue to work in some venue after retirement as a consultant, another health related business or other endeavor to continue their professional activities.
  • "Effective communication" and "patience" were common responses to a question regarding the most important skills needed for success.

Physician Executive Leadership Center is the only firm in the country that specializes in physician executive search. The majority of its work is with hospitals and health systems. Learn more at

Navvis & Company is a management consultancy specializing in competitive market strategy in the health services industry. The firm provides counsel to health systems, hospitals and physician groups on the development of innovative, market-linked strategies to build future-ready health systems, cultivate tomorrow's leaders and strengthen strategic performance. Learn more at