Physician Leadership: Six Keys to Leading Successful Health Care Reform

Vital Signs: April 2013

The emergence of ACOs, global budgets, bundled payment, and other emerging payment reform initiatives has created one uniform point of consensus — the importance and need for physician leadership at all levels within an organization.

The administrative-clinical divide is a thing of the past, as evidenced by the increased need for collaboration clinically and administratively in integrated care delivery models such as ACOs.

In a recent Healthcare Executives article on physician leadership, Peter Angood, M.D., F.A.C.S., of the American College of Physician Executives, said: “Institutions that engage physicians in leadership tend to do better in terms of performance metrics, quality, and safety. And from a business vantage, they tend to outperform those that don’t have that engagement.”

A health care organization’s success rests on physician leadership skills. In order to be successful within this new paradigm, physician leaders must:

  • Have an understanding of your system.Physicians must be able to identify opportunities for improvement. They understand how clinical handoffs are supposed to happen, understand where in the care delivery process things go smoothly, and can easily identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Understand Strategic Planning. Physicians must participate in and be prepared to lead strategic-planning and decision-making sessions. Physician insight into what steps an organization may undertake to accomplish organizational goals, based on improving clinical care delivery using the right resources, is key.
  • Navigate the Transition to Value-Based Care.Physicians will play a significant role in championing the transition from current payment models to value-based care models and will need to understand the nuances of value-based care.
  • Understand Data and Data Analytics.Physicians must understand data, data warehousing, and data analytics. They must be able to use data in order to identify trends and improvement opportunities, make decisions, monitor improvements, and determine whether implemented interventions are having the desired effect.
  • Understand Finance.Under accountable care and other emerging payment models where financial risk is assumed by the entity, an increased understanding of finance is important. Physician input into financial decisions and understanding the nuances of such decisions will be extremely important to leading organizations through the transition to value-based care.
  • Manage Conflict.Physician-leaders must be able to identify and manage conflict. Understanding how to gracefully and effectively deal with conflict resolution is a necessary skill during times of change and transition. Many organizations, including MMS’s Physician Health Services, offer training in conflict management for physicians.

— Kerry Ann Hayon

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