The old ways won't cut it anymore. Today's healthcare environment requires managers who understand the need for delivering medical care in a more efficient and patient-friendly way. They must understand how clinical knowledge is developed, evaluated and integrated into practice, then find the right balance between clinical and corporate mandates.
Adjusting to the new way of doing business is an enormous challenge, but it also offers huge opportunities. For most physicians serving in executive roles, this means rejecting the principles that once defined their response: using independent action and deductive reasoning as the basis for making a medical diagnosis. Effective physician managers function collaboratively, act rather than react to events, and think intuitively.
Furthermore, their organizations must focus on three basic missions to succeed:
Differentiation. Successful medical organizations must find a way to stand out in their markets by offering high-quality and low costs. One way they can do this is by becoming very good at what they do. For example, Shouldice Hospital in Canada concentrates on only one surgical procedure--repairing abdominal hernias. The California Heart Network, which consists of seven hospitals and 250 physicians, has focused on marketing its quality message to Medicare recipients seeking cardiac treatment.
Service. Medical managers must respond to the public's demands for convenience, information and service. Numerous ways exist to do this, including setting up convenient evening and weekend hours and supporting efforts to provide more quality and outcomes data. The opportunities are limited only by the imagination.
Accountability. Physicians view themselves as patient advocates, but today's healthcare environment also demands accountability--to the payer, to the patient and to society, which foots a good portion of the healthcare bill.
In the final analysis, medical schools, trade associations and medical societies aren't in a very good position to push this crucial agenda because they must reserve their primary focus for other objectives. It's up to physician leaders to spearhead the effort to create patient-centered, service-oriented and accountable organizations.