By George Williams, MD, MMM, FACEP
A few years ago, the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) published a white paper, “The Value of Physician Leadership.” Using literature reviews and interviews with healthcare professionals, the document draws a clear connection between physician leadership and high performing healthcare organizations. The white paper is summarized in a FierceHealthcare article published on May 6, 2014, “ACPE: Physician leadership linked to organizational success.” Around the same time, ACPE elected to change the organization’s name to the American Association for Physician Leadership based on the realization that leadership more appropriately encapsulates the work that administrative physicians are performing in healthcare organizations.
Reading the article, I found it validating to discover that what we have been pursuing at Methodist Health System, bringing more clinicians into senior leadership roles, is being practiced across the country by healthcare organizations large and small. Currently, Methodist has three clinicians heading different organizations. Martin L. Koonsman, MD, FACS, is president of Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Fran Laukaitis, MHA, BSN, FACHE, is president of Methodist Charlton Medical Center. I am president of MedHealth, an organization of 30 Methodist Family Health Centers and 14 specialty practices located throughout the greater Dallas area. In addition, Sam Cullison, MD, serves as vice president of the graduate medical education program; Brian Kenjarski, MD, MBA, FACEP, is chief medical information officer; and Melissa Gerdes, MD, FAAFP, is vice president and chief medical officer, outpatient services and ACO strategy.
We are proof of Methodist’s belief that clinicians can be very effective leaders. In truth, we view ourselves as healthcare leaders who happen to be physicians or nurses. I believe that Methodist’s investment in the training and nurturing of clinicians to become leaders is one reason we are consistently rated among the best places to work.
The ACPE white paper states, “… physicians, with their deep clinical understanding and desire to provide the best care for patients, are well-placed to help bring about the redesign of care that is the bedrock of health reform.”
Methodist, like most healthcare organizations, is facing a variety of challenges including rising rates of chronic diseases, clinician shortages, and an aging population. If we want to retain high-quality physicians, it’s necessary to have physician leaders capable of empathizing with colleagues who are being expected to embrace a barrage of clinical practice changes to address these challenges. Today’s healthcare environment requires practicing collaboratively, completely contrary to the way that medicine has been practiced historically. Motivating physicians to make this leap of faith requires strong, insightful physician leaders who can educate and persuade their peers.
Which skills do physicians need to reach their full leadership potential? According to the ACPE white paper, here are the five key competencies for physician-leadership success:
- Knowledge of the healthcare environment
- Communication and relationship management
- Business skills and knowledge
- Leadership and ability to inspire
In order to develop physician leaders, Methodist created the Physician Leadership Institute. Participants complete a two-year didactic curriculum sponsored by the American Association for Physician Leadership. Additionally, each physician commits to completing a quality improvement project as part of the program.
Thanks to the Institute, we’re making progress in placing more clinicians in key leadership roles. While the challenges and expectations for physicians continue to intensify, the need for leaders who understand physician dynamics and who are keenly aware of the requirements that will be necessary to lead healthcare systems is greater than ever. I expect to see more and more large healthcare systems including physician leaders on their senior teams. I’m proud to say that Methodist has been on the leading edge of this trend.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to work in an organization that values clinical leadership, then consider Methodist Health System. Visit us at Jobs.MethodistHealthSytem.org.
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