Most medical executive committee members are younger than 50, and a surprising number are primary-care physicians.
Those are among the findings of a new study on medical staff leadership by the La Jolla, Calif.-based Governance Institute.
The younger-than-expected average age of MEC members "reflects positively on the potential for implementing change," said Stephen Williams, who designed and conducted the study of 65 hospitals. Mr. Williams is head of the division of health services administration at San Diego State University's Graduate School of Public Health.
"We expected a much greater control over the (MECs) by subspecialists," Mr. Williams said. Some 44% of MEC members are primary-care specialists, according to the study.
Although chiefs of staff typically serve in that position for one year, most think a two- or three-year term is necessary to give them enough time to provide quality leadership, the study found.
Only one chief of the 65 surveyed held a graduate degree in management.
Chiefs of staff cited effective communication as the most important skill in their job performance. When choosing personality traits that describe their administrative shortcomings, 19% of the respondents said they could be overly "reactive."
The size of MECs seems to hamper the decisionmaking process. The average MEC has 18 members, while the ideal size is eight to 10, said Charles Ewell, president of the Governance Institute.
"The size is a big negative," Mr. Ewell said. He attributed the inflated MEC membership to "excessive democracy."
"The organizations were not designed to be decisionmaking groups as much as they were to be collegial discussion groups," he said.
Chiefs of staff think MECs do not "effectively contribute to the hospital's larger strategic decisionmaking," the study said. In addition, more than 60% of chiefs said the MEC doesn't adequately assess its own performance or that of its members.
However, relations between MECs, chiefs of staff and other hospital executives are "sound," the study found.