How physician executives achieve balance

Compounds are fascinating, functional phenomena. Indeed, oxygen is fairly spectacular on its own, but when bonded with two hydrogen atoms, it’s an entirely novel marvel with entirely novel capabilities.

So exists the physician executive. Equipped with the clinical chops of an MD and the business edge of an MBA or other equivalent, the physician executive role is gaining tread in the healthcare realm, especially in the wake of massive industry reform, according to Linda Komnick, a consultant with more than 15 years of healthcare industry experience at Witt/Kieffer.

“We’re seeing more and more physicians now coming out of training who are completing not only their MD, but MBA or a Masters of Medical Management [MMM] or a JD at that same time. And they are interested in more administrative roles in addition to providing that clinical care,” Komnick said in an interview with PhysBizTech.

As with most positions in the medical profession, the physician executive hasn’t always been around in the same capacity for which it is now known.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, a lot of these chief medical officers, VPMAs — in hospitals, health systems and medical groups — focused on credentialing, quality, physician behavioral issues. And what we’re seeing now is that they’ve become strategists, too. They have a seat with the executive team at the table and are involved with clinical strategy,” Komnick explained.

“You no longer are that individual who is retiring from your clinical practice and are looking for some sort of activity for the next three to five years while you phase out. These are executives who have to understand the business aspects as well as the clinical aspects of healthcare and how they align.”

And the industry wants physicians operating in such a fashion, Komnick continued.

“When you talk about accountable care organizations and healthcare reform, many organizations now are looking for that physician leader who has an understanding because — clinical integration, pay-for-performance — you have to have everything together to get paid in this new realm of healthcare,” she said. “What’s happening is that there’s a large demand for these physician leaders and a small number of those who have the experience, the skill sets, the tools to be successful in those roles.”

Successful physician leaders tend to exhibit/possess a combination of the following according to Komnick:

  • Certification from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE)
  • Certification in the form of an MBA, MMM or JD degree from an accredited collegiate institution
  • Certification from a healthcare system’s or affiliated hospital’s leadership academy (programs designed to identify and train up-and-comers in a given organization).
  • Recognition and familiarity amongst partnering practices, pharmacies, hospitals and organizations
  • Membership in as many organizational committees as can be thoughtfully accommodated

Overall, adopting an ambitious mindset is key.

“Many are going to their leadership administration and saying, ‘I want some more responsibilities.’ So [it's] baptism by fire, meaning taking on some operational aspects,” Komnick concluded.

Furthermore, Komnick added: “Experience is always going to outweigh paper.” Just like water, balance is the key to a perfect compound — as such, it’s important for aspiring physician executives to achieve balance between what has already clinically been observed and the operational mindset/degree set to be obtained.