Other healthcare organizations operate under another model that includes shared leadership.
American Physician Partners has implemented a regional and corporate dyad model that pairs operational and physician executives.
The emergency department physician management organization has about six regions and works with around 100 hospitals. The regional vice president reports to the chief operating officer and the regional medical director reports to the chief medical officer.
Regional executives have nearly full autonomy, which allows the organization to act quickly, said John Rutledge, CEO of American Physician Partners. There hasn’t been much debate as to who has the final say, but when those discussions take place it leads to healthy discourse, he said.
“You just need the right teams,” Rutledge said. “The dyad model teaches our regional physicians about the business side, and our regional vice presidents get great exposure to the clinical side.”
Christus Health recently reorganized under a dyad model at its Spohn Health System, which similarly pairs an administrative leader with a clinical leader. It’s a proven model tested at Christus’ other divisions in Texas and Louisiana, executives said. In addition, the system’s finance and operational leadership roles have been combined to try to improve alignment.
“My experience as a trauma surgeon and a healthcare leader have taught me that there’s a difference between leading a resuscitation room and leading a boardroom, but I’ve learned that many of the skills you need in both are similar,” said Dr. Osbert Blow, who will become Christus Spohn Health System’s president and chief medical officer.
Blow will work with Dominic Dominguez, senior vice president of South Texas health ministries and CEO of Christus Spohn. They are replacing Justin Doss, former CEO of Christus Spohn.
The co-CEO model can serve as a bridge to complete a merger, but it should not be relied on as a long-term solution to mask operational inefficiencies, experts cautioned.
The model can help retention and keep up morale because an employee may develop trust in their leader, mission and operational processes.
But it requires a delicate and measured approach, particularly with senior management teams that need a well-defined set of responsibilities, Bohne said.
“Show me a co-CEO model that lasts beyond a few years,” Bohne said. “Even with best of intentions, there’s usually a natural inflection point where the efficacy is challenged.”