Medical Practices Must Focus on Physician Leadership Development

October 23, 2013
Mary Barber

As healthcare reform evolves, so too will the scope and responsibilities of physician leaders.

As the economy improves, physician turnover increases - and each physician vacancy can cost a healthcare organization up to $1 million annually.

The success of your practice depends on your ability to retain, develop, and align your medical staff to meet the challenges of a fast-changing and highly competitive healthcare landscape.

That's where the development of strong physician leadership comes into play. Physician leaders can be your best champions in building care teams, sustaining healthy revenue, and ensuring quality outcomes.

Forward looking organizations are developing integral roles for physicians beyond the traditional medical staff liaison. Stay ahead of the curve with the following strategies:

Involve existing physician leaders in recruitment and retention.
• You are competing with other organizations to recruit physicians. Involving the right physician leaders in the interview process will help candidates envision their future career at your facility and differentiate your practice’s teamwork culture.
• Assign a physician leader to mentor new recruits, help them acclimate to the culture, and educate them on the leadership pathways available at your organization.

Follow a dyad leadership structure. 
• Team-based care is the hallmark of accountable care. Many groups are finding success with a dyad leadership model in which both physicians and non-physician executives share leadership roles.
• Shared accountability and matrix reporting are more prevalent as healthcare systems become more complex.

Build experience and reward performance.
• Physicians are trained to excel in the technical and clinical aspects of medicine. However, as a physician leader, “how” their behavior influences others in practice reflects their ability to lead. The old days of putting physicians with the longest tenures in leadership roles are over. Now, specific behaviors, training, and experience will be necessary to influence change throughout the organization.
• Select high-performing physicians for committee or project leadership assignments, give specific feedback on an ongoing basis, and incorporate incentives that reward their contributions as a leader toward achieving strategic goals.

As healthcare reform evolves, so too will the scope and responsibilities of physician leaders. How is your organization preparing for the paradigm shift?

Mary Barber is senior executive vice president of marketing at Cejka Search, a nationally recognized physician, healthcare executive, advanced practice, and allied health search firm providing services exclusively to the healthcare industry for more than 30 years. Email her here.