Why Physician Leaders are Now Trending

February 14, 2017 – Due to the uncertainty and volatility in the U.S. healthcare sector, health systems are now looking more proactively at physician leaders who may be better positioned to relate, communicate and navigate changes on the horizon. To executive recruiters specializing in the sector, they are the new standard-bearers ready to champion the greatest overhaul ever seen across a single marketplace.

The emergence of physician leaders is part of a trend centered on the unpredictability that both physicians and health systems now face. In response, health systems are taking steps to revise criteria for who they want heading their systems and what the qualifications of incoming leaders should look like.

Growing Demand

“There is a growing demand for physician leaders, which is related to both the current uncertainties in the industry and the need to be able to pivot quickly,” said Diversified Search managing director Martha Hauser.

Healthcare is, after all, a clinical business, and physician leaders tend to make decisions from a clinical perspective, said Quick Leonard Kieffer president and CEO Roger Quick. “Having a leader who has been in the trenches is an asset. That basis gives those leaders credibility and insight into the challenges physicians are facing,” said Mr. Quick. “Research from a variety of fields has shown that employee satisfaction is higher when employees recognize that their supervisors are competent in the field. We’re finding that physician leaders are particularly well suited for this new paradigm.”

Physicians often are more likely to listen to another physician under such difficult circumstances, said Ms. Hauser. “That is helping to fuel demand for doctors who can manage large and complex health organizations.”

New Generation of Leaders

The industry is focusing on how to develop a generation of leaders who are also experienced clinicians. This, at a time when more and more physicians are transitioning from fulltime practice to more advanced leadership roles. “They are probably right now the highest demand executives in the country,” said Todd Drometer, co-owner and partner at Phillips DiPisa and Associates.

That begs the $64 million question: Are there enough quality candidates to meet demand? “More than 67 percent of physicians in the U.S are now employees and not independent practitioners,” said Horton International North America managing director Jim Utterback. “Some will undoubtedly now be exposed to the business world, and will begin to accumulate that expertise.”

Changes in reimbursement are driving the switch. Instead of being paid for every patient visit, physicians receive a yearly salary for treating a set number of patients. “Hospitals make money from patients coming in and filling their beds. Now, they’re directing those patients to outpatient settings, not having them stay overnight when they can, at a lower cost,” said Mr. Drometer. “Who better to drive and direct this than physicians who not only understand finance and operations, but also know the clinical side?”

Contributed by John Harris, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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