In this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Tara Osseck and Helen Falkner.
Falkner and Osseck are both regional vice presidents at Jackson Physician Search. They discuss the importance of and the strategies around developing strong physician leaders. They also delve into the recent findings from JPS and MGMA physician research.
Editor’s note: The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How do you define a successful physician leader?
Falkner: I think it's necessary that they possess a strong clinical acumen. In addition to that they need to have good interpersonal and communication skills. And wrapped into that is the ability to effectively manage and coordinate a team. ... Additionally, an effective physician leader needs to understand how clinical medicine is operationalized, you know, understanding the business of healthcare including insurance structure, and cost of care to patients.
Osseck: A successful physician leader is someone who is an agent for positive change within their organization, someone who has the ability to motivate the people around them and influence their team and accomplish whatever the shared task or goal is. And I think the most successful physician leaders have had a genuine passion for improving not only their practice and organization, but the community at large. They take a really mission-minded approach to medicine, and they aren't in it for a title or prestige, but rather to make a genuine impact.
Q: Talk about the importance of having a physician on the board of directors.
Osseck: I believe that a physician leader having a seat in the boardroom is absolutely crucial to that organization's long-term success. Whether you're measuring clinical performance and patient outcomes or professional satisfaction and morale of staff within your organization and whether you are a private practice, a medical group, a small critical access hospital, or a large academic institution. When you think about it, we rely on physicians to deliver quality care and exceptional patient satisfaction and generate revenue and lead teams of other physicians and advanced practice providers and nurses and support.
And that's not to mention all the administrative boxes that they have to check as part of their daily job. So, that really drives me to ask why some organizations trust physicians to do all of those things but not have a seat at the table to make important decisions on behalf of their organization, and particularly those decisions that require clinical astuteness in order to implement change. I think physician leaders can play a vital role in driving their organization forward in all areas, including finance, patient safety, quality, organizational culture and beyond.
Falkner: Tara really hit it all, and there's a lot of evidence that suggests that quality physician leadership and having physicians on the board has a significant impact on quality of care, outcomes, finances, and even on physician burnout.
I have a client, a community health system that I've worked with for a very long time, and one of their greatest strengths, and it's been a great strength in recruitment, is that they are physician led. They have doctors at all levels of leadership, and they are actively seeking out ways to increase the number of physicians that they have in leadership. One thing that really stands out is that all of their physician leaders are at a minimum 10% clinical.
So, they're in the trenches. They know the day-to-day challenges, the pain points. And, because of that, they're better able to advocate and, and incite change in their various service lines as needed. And that has been not only a great recruitment tool, but an amazing retention tool.
Q: With the staffing issues in healthcare, and with heated competition for qualified candidates, where do you find those physician leaders?
Falkner: A great place to start is tapping physicians already in the organization. That's not only a great way to drive engagement but is also a good retention plan for the doctors on staff.
If there's no clear physician leadership candidates within your organization, the next step would be to tap your network of your physicians. But perhaps the most efficient and effective way to find a physician, executive or physician leader is through selecting the right partner.
And that partner should have a large network of physicians that they can tap into. You know, physician executive search is time consuming. It's a process that needs to be done with a lot of care. And with a dedicated recruiter, whether that's somebody internal to your organization or outside of your organization - that person can ensure that all the right things are being done, candidates are being vetted thoroughly to ensure that the right leader is being selected for your organization.
Osseck: I think one of the biggest challenges that we see organizations continually facing is crafting an effective leadership development and succession plan, and having an actual plan for both of those things to ensure that the organization is proactive instead of reactive in placing their next physician leader.
From an internal standpoint, I'd agree with what Helen says. I mean, if you've got physicians within your organization that have the drive and the potential, they're performing well, they've got rapport and credibility with staff and certainly encompass the culture, that's a really great place to start.
I'd add that if you want to help them cement a career with your group you have to first make sure that they're the right cultural fit before you open the flood gates. So, once they've proven that, then start by delegating minor leadership roles and responsibilities.
Also, have them participate in education or development training to teach them skills that'll benefit your practice or hospital. You could offer mentorship from a senior physician leader. And I think if you can show them you've got a vested interest in their future and not just having them on as a provider that's generating revenue, but genuinely improving care costs and access, they're gonna be so much more invested in you as a practice and loyal to your organization in the long term.
You can learn even more on this topic and earn continuing education credits by accessing the recent MGMA webinar led by Tara Osseck and Helen Falkner.
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The MGMA Insights podcasts are produced by Daniel Williams, Camille Burch, Rob Ketcham and Decklan McGee.
MGMA Events: This episode is brought to you by the Medical Practice Excellence: Financial and Operations Conference 2023. During our premiere spring event, attendees will gain key insights from both disciplines and learn about topics that shape the future success of medical practice organizations. Go to mgma.com/mpe23 to learn more and to register today.
Humana: The latest Value-Based Care Report from Humana outlines many interesting findings and highlights how some physician practices found creative paths to success. Check it out now at Humana.com/VBC. Humana is working closely with physician practices on their value-based journeys.
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