As healthcare organizations eye a shift to value-based care, many are looking to fill vacant CEO spots with a physician leader.
The majority of companies responding to Modern Healthcare’s Executive Search Firms Survey noted that the trend is growing rapidly as physicians’ specific skill sets become more sought after in leadership.
“In the past, it was typical to see academic medical centers hiring physician CEOs,” said Ed Stout, managing partner and healthcare lead of Diversified Search, “but we now see community health systems and large integrated delivery systems asking to see physicians in almost every CEO search we undertake.”
Donna Padilla, managing partner and practice leader of healthcare at WittKiefer, said physicians’ clinical backgrounds are key. They often possess deeper skills and exposure to a breadth of strategic and operational issues, including quality measures and patient satisfaction, both of which factor into value-based payments, she added. Several other firms noted almost identical qualities with emphasis on the patient experience.
“Many physician leaders have proven their proficiency at being a liaison and strengthening alignment between the clinical and the operational sides of the business,” said Kelly Rakowski, president of leadership at AMN Healthcare, parent of B.E. Smith, the firm that reported more senior-level placements last year than any other participant in our survey.
Jeff Zegas, CEO of search firm ZurickDavis, also noted that he was aware of the trend, although CEO searches at his organization are primarily done in healthcare sectors other than hospitals.
The skills needed to be a CEO, though, continue to evolve and could drive searches in new directions. David Gantshar, CEO of Merraine Group, pointed out that hospital CEOs today must have exposure to technology, patient care, employee relations, community involvement, finance, wellness and innovation.
“To be a CEO in today’s high-pressure, low-margin, high-touch, technology-focused environment, one must be a business leader, first and foremost,” Gantshar said.