Adopting Dyad Leadership in Practices

May 12, 2016

Once more prevalent in hospitals, this management model brings together an administrator with a physician leader to jointly oversee a division of care providers.

It's new to most medical practices, but the "dyad leadership" structure has been firmly entrenched in hospitals and healthcare systems for years.

Such management models bring together an administrator with a physician leader to jointly oversee a service line (cardiology, pediatrics, oncology, etc.) or a division of care providers, such as a regional primary-care network.

Academic medical centers, like the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, introduced dyad leadership more than 20 years ago, with great success.

In 2012, for example, a physician-administrator dyad was able to standardize care across 22 emergency departments in Minnesota, which resulted in significant cost savings, better patient safety and improved quality of care. Their process was outlined by The Advisory Board Company, a research and consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

"This model evolved out of necessity," says Travis Singleton, senior vice president at physician staffing firm Merritt Hawkins, which is based in Dallas. "Even independent groups, as they get bigger and more complex, must think about risk management now in dealing with insurers, coding and compensation changes, and strategic affiliations. You need to be able to play in a different sandbox."

According to The Advisory Board, dyad leadership offers three key benefits: it secures the full spectrum of leadership skills required to deliver strong management and change across multidisciplinary groups; it ensures maximum return on each leader's time and effort since both are working to the top of their license; and it reduces leader burnout.

It's no wonder, then, that smaller practices are looking to adopt the dual management structure.

"The concept of whether or not you have to have a team has become nonnegotiable," says Lynn Lillie, a practicing family physician in Woodbury, Minn. and a board member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "In the new healthcare era, in which the Affordable Care Act was passed and laws from [the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015] are being implemented, having team-based care is of utmost importance."

Shelly K. Schwartz,a freelance writer in Maplewood, N.J., has covered personal finance, technology, and healthcare for more than 17 years. Her work has appeared on CNBC.com, CNNMoney.com, and Bankrate.com. She can be reached via editor@physicianspractice.com.

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Physicians Practice.