6 healthcare leadership trends for 2015

Executive search firm Witt/Kieffer highlights trends influencing healthcare’s C-suite this year
By Richard Pizzi
08:00 AM
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Docs and CIOs

As the healthcare industry changes, the executive suite must change with it and leaders must evolve into new, broader roles. Healthcare executive search consultants from Witt/Kieffer have offered up six trends that are shaping the C-suite this year.

  1. Reform marches on. Regardless of what happens with “reform” in Washington, reform outside the beltway will continue unabated, says Andrew Chastain, leader of Witt/Kieffer’s Healthcare practice. The industry is transforming itself, and top executives will need to remain visionary and opportunistic regardless of the political climate.
  2. Succession planning is more critical than ever. Healthcare organizations such as UnitedHealth and others have made dramatic leadership changes recently to align executive teams with long-term strategy. According to Jim Gauss, chair of board services for Witt/Kieffer, boards must drive this strategic process. “Boards must be diligent about succession planning,” he says. “This is central to governance best practices. In the case of UnitedHealth, the new leadership structure indicates that the governance committee has clear expectations for the new leader and his key executives.”
  3. The CNO role is shifting. Chief nursing officers are in great demand, and as younger nurse administrators are preparing for CNO roles, there is debate as to whether an MBA, PhD or DNP is the optimal degree to have. There is no right answer, says Rachel Polhemus, senior partner at Witt/Kieffer. A CNO with an MBA may be the perfect candidate for today’s healthcare challenges, especially within larger health systems. “Business and finance are such critical aspects of the CNO role today,” Polhemus says, “and those nurse executives with MBAs, especially with a concentration in healthcare, are in demand.”
  4. The CMO and CFO can, and must, get along. Senior partner Carson Dye conducts executive search assignments for senior-level executives including CFOs and Chief Medical Officers (CMOs), and has noticed some marked similarities in the qualities found in good CFOs and physician leaders. Both roles are very precise, approach problems by testing assumptions and propose solutions based on logic. According to Dye, “Although conventional wisdom suggests that physicians and finance professionals have very little in common, I believe that CFOs and CMOs can become the closest working partners around the senior leadership table.”
  5. The second-generation CMIO is emerging. The first generation of healthcare chief medical information officers fulfilled several essential tactical responsibilities for their organizations, including: championing IT adoption and integration and supporting electronic health records implementation. While these and other responsibilities won’t disappear, today’s CMIO has made a definite transition into a much more strategic role at hospitals and health systems. "All hospitals and health systems are now looking to optimization and innovation,” says Hillary Ross, a consultant who specializes in recruiting CMIO and other senior-level IT executive roles. "Today’s second generation CMIOs are focused more on the utilization of clinical information systems, the data that is being produced and its dissemination. There is still an operational component to the role but the strategic involvement is greater."
  6. Executives with insurance experience are wanted. As hospital systems launch, acquire or expand their own health plans and operate more like insurance companies – taking on more financial risk for value-based contracts with employers and insurers – they need a new type of leader, one who understands the insurance space and can educate health system executive peers on the nuances of operating their own plans successfully. “Hospital systems increasingly need executives who have operated in health plans, understanding how to build the infrastructure for an efficient health plan operation, master the fully integrated model, and manage the risk that comes with population health, wellness and prevention,” says Mark Andrew, Witt/Kieffer senior partner.