4 ways to develop physician leaders

By Aine Cryts

Healthcare organizations led by physician CEOs receive higher quality rankings, according to a discussion paper released by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany. In addition, U.K. hospitals with higher levels of clinician leadership outranked their peers, according to The McKinsey Quarterly.

While the benefits of physician leadership in healthcare are clear, the path to success is not, writes Bhagwan Satiani, M.D., professor of clinical surgery in the division of vascular diseases and surgery and director of the Faculty Leadership Institute at Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus in Physician Leadership Journal.

"Although the clinical and technical skills are generic in most physicians, new competencies are now needed," he writes. "The demand for physician leaders will continue to increase dramatically as it becomes more evident that healthcare systems need people with clinical backgrounds who are trained to think strategically, manage change and execute their vision of the future."

Satiani, who also holds an MBA, offers four insights on ways to develop physicians as leaders:

An MBA isn't required, but it helps. While physician leaders don't need an MBA, it's helpful to gain experience managing large budgets. Still, having an MBA can build credibility with rank-and-file employees, members of the board and other clinicians, he advises.

There's exponential growth in joint programs that offer a medical degree and MBA. The past 10 years have witnessed increased interest among physicians on taking on leadership responsibilities, writes Satiani. And the number of joint programs has grown from six in 1993 to 54 such programs in 2012.

Alternative routes to building leadership development skills exist. More than 2,000 physicians have been licensed as certified physician executives by the Certifying Commission in Medical Management of the American Association for Physician Leadership since 1997, according to the article.

Change in mindset is required. The biggest hurdle for physician leaders is changing their mindset, writes Satiani. Physician leaders have a tendency to look at the members of their team as working "for" rather than "with" them. Successful physician leaders need to communicate that they care about the members of their team and are open to feedback, he advises.

To learn more:
- read the discussion paper
- check out The McKinsey Quarterly article
- read the Physician Leadership Journal article