There’s no doubt that physician administrators produce better outcomes. In fact, in terms of cost and quality, studies over the last several years have shown as much as a 30% increase in those ratings over the traditional CEO. And because Medicare uses those very statistics to determine both bonuses and penalties, clinician leaders are in high demand.
For some practices and larger medical concerns, the answer may seem obvious: look for administrators among currently employed physicians. But the evolution from doctor to administrator is not necessarily a simple process. Even physicians specifically trained as administrators may not make the transition easily.
But the evolution from doctor to administrator is not necessarily a simple process. Even physicians specifically trained as administrators may not make the transition easily.
When looking at physician candidates, it helps to understand the often conflicting roles and experiences of doctors and managers. A good recruiter will keep a keen eye on whether or not the physician can integrate new leadership requirements well. Here are the three key qualities of the best physician administrators:
1. Collaboration and shared responsibility
Physicians are accustomed to prescribing courses of treatment which are implemented by other team members without question. The physician, therefore, takes full responsibility for his decisions as the expert. Administrators, on the other hand, are an integral part of many experts who share the responsibility of outcomes, whether financial or treatment-based. The best candidate will show not only the ability to lead but also the ability to collaborate - and the diplomacy skills that aid in influencing others to see the larger picture.
2. Meeting resistance
A physician is accustomed to receiving praise and gratitude from the patients he/she serves. In addition, doctors are likely to experience the team members and colleagues with whom they work as respectful. They accept and comply with his expert opinions. This atmosphere is one of trust and deference. The role of a manager is wholly different. Colleagues may see the physician as a representative of the interests of the institution, rather than the patients and staff. The best candidate will not ruffle easily and will greet resistance with tact sufficient to build and maintain trust among all. In other words, look for some degree of humility and flexibility.
3. Facing complexities
Doctors are well-versed in problem-solving. Nonetheless, those problems are often straightforward, well-defined, and immediate. Adding to this simplicity is the limited number of people involved (i.e. one patient, one nurse, one anesthesiologist, etc.). Administrators deal with more complex processes and much larger systems of people, from patients to accountants. The best physician administrator will have the ability to be pragmatic as they contend with interconnected and sometimes conflicting goals. Look for a physician who is able to apply his leadership across a wide and varied population and who can remain effective in achieving both short and long-term goals.
The best physician administrators are in high demand. Finding one for your organization will pay off for your bottom line and for the patients you serve. But even the best physicians are not born managers, and may even be handicapped by their long-held roles as the ultimate authority. Staffing agencies are able to consider the pitfalls and determine the best candidates by looking beyond past medical achievement to the qualities necessary for good management: integration, leadership, collaboration, and patience with both processes and people.