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3 Reasons to Hire Physician Executives

Jackson Physician Search
December 13, 2022

According to a December MGMA article, healthcare and physician executives may be the next group to join the “Great Resignation.” The article references an ACHE report that found turnover among hospital leadership was slightly lower in 2020 and 2021 than it was in the prior eight years. The dip suggests that at least some healthcare executives delayed retirement so as not to abandon their organizations during the worst of the pandemic. Now, with circumstances related to the pandemic greatly improved, those executives who put off retirement or a new opportunity are likely ready to move on… but who will fill their shoes? 

The startling truth is that most organizations don’t have an answer to that question. According to the aforementioned article’s corresponding STAT poll, 61% of organizations report that they have no succession plan for leadership roles. A 2021 JPS study found the situation to be even worse, with only 16% of leaders reporting they had succession plans in place. Succession planning is essential for leadership roles, and one could make the case they are important to have for physicians too. 

Whether you decide to create a succession plan, or you simply start thinking about your next course of action, be sure to consider how replacing departing leaders with physician executives could benefit the organization as a whole. 

1. Physician Executives Improve Quality

According to a new whitepaper from the American Association of Physician Leaders, physician leadership is more valuable now than ever before. The whitepaper reports that seven out of ten of the nation’s top hospitals (named by U.S. News & World Report) are led by physician executives. The rankings are, in part, due to the higher quality scores associated with these physician-led hospitals. The whitepaper notes that hospitals see, on average, a 25% increase in quality scores when physician executives are in charge.

For administrators seeking to improve quality, adding a physician executive to the C-suite may be just the right move. Why do physician executives have this effect? It may be due to reasons number two and three on our list… 

2. Physician Executives Bring Clinical Perspective to the Boardroom

Physician executives have a unique understanding of the challenges facing healthcare providers and the patients they treat, as they have faced those problems firsthand. This empathy allows them to bring the perspective of physicians and patients to the decision-making process, ensuring the actions of the organization don’t undercut the needs of those it serves. 

With an understanding of both the organization’s goals and the challenges facing physicians, physician executives are the ideal liaisons between administration and providers, two parties occasionally at odds. In fact, in a recent JPS-MGMA study, physicians ranked two-way communication with management as the most important factor in job satisfaction – above compensation. However, when asked to rate their employers in this area, just one in four said two-way communication at their organization was “good” or “very good.” Physician executives have the ability to improve in this area and positively impact physician job satisfaction at their organizations.  

3. Physician Executives Get Buy-In From Medical Staff

Leaders make decisions for their organizations that impact staff at every level. When a physician executive presents an organizational change that will impact physicians and clinical staff, the fact that he or she has been in their shoes makes it more likely that clinical staff will see the change as something positive. The shared history and common language give physician executives credibility among not just physicians, but nurses, techs, allied staff, and all members of the direct care team. 

The AAPL whitepaper shares multiple examples of physician executives serving as positive agents of change both within the organization and the community. The whitepaper quotes Baxter C. Holland, MD, pediatrician and former vice president of medical affairs at Rutland Regional Medical Center in Rutland, Vermont:

“If you have physician leaders, you are more likely to have the medical staff follow the organization’s direction. They’re much more likely to follow other physicians than they are administrators.”

Hiring Physician Executives

As the healthcare industry faces unprecedented challenges, the need for physician executives is greater than ever. Organizations with more physician leadership are likely to have higher quality scores due to the clinical perspective physician executives bring to the boardroom and their ability to gain trust and buy-in from medical staff. However, hiring effective physician executives can be challenging. Most organizations do not provide leadership training to their own physicians, so they must look externally for physician executive candidates. 

Of course, connecting with physician executive candidates is only one part of the physician executive recruitment process. While there are several things you need for successful physician executive recruitment, perhaps the most important is a trusted physician executive recruitment partner to help you connect with candidates and identify the best person to fill this essential role on your team.     

If you are interested in adding a physician executive to your team, Jackson Physician Search can offer unmatched access to physician executives and valuable insight into the physician executive recruitment process. Reach out to the Physician Executive Recruitment team today to start your search.

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