Leadership in Health Care Administration

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Health care administrators face what may be the most difficult challenges in a rapidly evolving marketplace. Those in the C-suite may find themselves facing new advances in technology and changing care delivery paradigms. In addition, shifts in financial organization and the new regulatory and oversight requirements codified in President Barack Obama’s health care law may likely add more complexity to their roles. If you’re considering a career in health care administration, consider some of these emerging trends shaping leadership in the industry.

Expanding the Role of the CMIO

Image via Flickr by tedeytan

Think about the roles of chief medical information officers (CMIOs). These professionals were instrumental in implementing electronic health records and promoting organization-wide adoption of health information technology, according to Richard Pizzi, editorial director of HIMSS Media.

The new generation of CMIOs, says Pizzi, see their roles evolving from mostly operational to increasingly strategic. Health care systems, Pizzi notes, are looking for optimization and innovation in their health information technology (HIT) infrastructure.

Of course, with the increased reliance on digital records and data collection comes a sharper focus on privacy and data security. In April 2015, privacy experts with the Health Data Consortium released a series of reports attempting to balance privacy concerns with the need for data-driven insights in health care.

According to Chris Boone, the consortium’s executive director, “Data-driven and information-based systems have quickly become the new paradigm for American health care, providing valuable insights on treatment, quality, safety, [and] efficiency in public and personal health,” he says. “These developments offer a wealth of opportunities to increase wellness, but raise serious privacy and security questions.”

Taking Care Outside Traditional Settings

In the past, most acute care took place within a hospital. Today, however, free-standing clinics, ambulatory care centers, and urgent care centers can be considered centers of outpatient care. Doug Smith and Christine Ricci of B.E. White, a health care leadership firm, note these observations in a white paper titled “Health Care Trends 2015.”

Dr. Brian Silverstein, from research firm Sg2, found that hospital profit centers, which were 64 percent inpatient and 35 percent outpatient 10 years ago, have completely flipped places. Now outpatient services drive profits.

Smith and Ricci also report statistics on the following trends. Telemedicine and mini-clinics at drugstores and other outlets are replacing routine care traditionally provided in a physician’s office. Video health consultations are projected to reach 130 million by 2018, up from 5.7 million in 2014.

The retail mini-clinic growth rate has been equally dramatic, with the number of outlets doubling in the three years since 2012. Today’s health care administration executives will need to consider new strategies to adopt, adapt, and compete in the new outpatient environment, observes Smith and Ricci.

The growth in health monitoring apps and home monitoring sensors is also changing the care delivery paradigm, with more care and supervision provided in the home as opposed to outpatient and inpatient settings, according to Smith and Ricci.

Evolving C-Suite Leadership

Zack Budryk, editor for the website FierceHealthcare, identifies two trends affecting health care leadership: increasing turnover at the CEO level and the rise in physician leadership. He writes that CEO turnover hit a record 20 percent in 2013. Budryk surmises that executive compensation may be partly to blame.

Budryk further notes that while health care reform has tied reimbursement rates to a performance-based model, few organizations have integrated performance-based incentives into their compensation models. A recent survey, cited in Budryk’s work, showed fewer than half had done so.

In addition, more physicians are now employed by a hospital or health care system than practice independently, a trend projected to hit 75 percent by the end of the decade, according to Budryk. As these health care systems work to more seamlessly integrate their clinical side with their executive decision-making, the role of the physician administrator will likely continue to grow.

According to a paper published by the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE), “The Value of Physician Leadership,” organizations led by physicians outperformed those headed by traditional executives. The ACPE found that, in 2013, the top five hospitals ranked by U.S. News and World Report had physician executives.

Health care leaders of the 21st century will face special challenges, but navigating these changes offer opportunities for professional development and growth.