A new breed of chief executive officer is taking command at some of the nation's leading hospitals and healthcare systems. As Sandy Lutz reported in last week's special report (Oct. 17, p. 36), many of the new leaders possess different skills and backgrounds than their predecessors. Some have experience in negotiating and managing capitated contracts, others have developed physician-hospital organizations, and a few come from outside the healthcare industry.
Boards are depending on this new generation of CEOs to lead their hospitals to the promised land in a reformed healthcare environment. For traditional hospital CEOs, command of the crucial skills needed for tomorrow may pose a problem. Even if they've been successful in the past, they may struggle when asked to lead a new integrated delivery system that views the hospital as a cost center.
The new CEOs also will interact with physicians and payers in different ways. Instead of wooing specialists who fill beds with patients, the healthcare managers of tomorrow will form partnerships with physicians, many of them general practitioners. Instead of viewing payers as adversaries, providers will work closely with payers to upgrade the health of the community.
New CEOs say their success will be determined by negotiating skills, consensus-building, physician relations, employee relations and leadership abilities. While it's natural to plan and prepare for the future, the new leaders are advised not to downplay the strengths of those who preceded them. Many of those retiring CEOs survived countless hurdles and obstacles because of their negotiating and leadership skills. The priorities and strategies of healthcare may change, but the basic ingredients of management success will remain essentially unchanged.