Is there any room left in the hospital C-suite?


The top of the corporate pyramid is getting pretty crowded at healthcare organizations these days. It seems like not a month goes by without a hospital adding a new position to its C-suite.

For instance, NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan is one of many hospitals hiring chief patient experience officers to improve patient satisfaction scores. To help manage increasing amounts of healthcare data, hospitals also are welcoming new chief knowledge officers to their C-suites.

And no C-suite is complete without chief incentive officers to incentivize hospital-wide initiatives to boost the health of patients and providers, chief quality officers to oversee the delivery of first-class care, and chief mobility officers to manage a hospital's mobile strategy. Don't forget about chief diversity officers, chief innovation officers, chief networking officers, chief sustainability officers, chief privacy officers, and even chief receptionist officers getting a seat at the head table.

Healthcare C-suites aren't the only ones becoming standing-room only. Chief listeners can be found mining data at Kodak and Dell, while Microsoft has a chief people officer leading human resource efforts. Forced to choose between grilled or fried? We can leave that up to KFC's first chief chicken officer.

So is this simply executive title inflation or a necessary response to evolving strategic challenges and industry regulations?

Some hospitals are adding new titles to meet specific goals or to show staff and consumers how important a particular issue is to their organization. How much do you value transparency, diversity or energy efficiency--enough to create a corresponding C-suite title focused on it? For example, hospitals looking to recoup Medicare reimbursements for patient satisfaction can enlist an exec dedicated solely to that care measures under value-based purchasing.

However, more executive titles and departments would mean more silos--a step backwards for coordinated and integrated healthcare delivery. Various research, programs and partnerships have shown collaboration within and among healthcare organizations lowers costs and enhances quality.

But despite the calls for coordination, new departments continue to crop up, creating fiefdoms instead of breaking down the silos in healthcare. And with an assortment of C-level execs presiding over their departments, healthcare professionals could find that when everyone is in charge, no one is in charge.

Moreover, throwing newly coined executive titles into the mix can cause confusion, as well as wasted time and money, according to the January issue of Executive Insight.

To keep the C-Suite from getting too crowded, move the traditional hierarchy to horizontal leadership. Healthcare needs leaders who will check their egos at the door and use the power of combined efforts to improve hospital performance.

So how many chief-fill-in-the-blank-officers does a healthcare organization need? Can there be too many chiefs at the C-suite table? - Alicia (@FierceHealth)

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