Bridging the Gap: The Business of Healthcare

Alessandra Fagone
May 13, 2016

healthcare leadership development

The average American doctor spends 14 years honing and fine-tuning their education to meet the needs of their future patients. Compare that with the average life expectancy of a US citizen (78.74 years), and doctors spend approximately 20% of their adult lives in school!

Doctors and scientists are trusted resources for health and wellness, empathy and care. In the beginnings of their careers, it’s common for doctors to focus almost exclusively on patient care. However, as they progress through their careers, leadership opportunities may present themselves as a natural course.

The problem that many healthcare organizations are experiencing is bridging the gap between healthcare expertise and business experience. As an industry, healthcare has evolved much over the past decade. As Harvard Business Review points out in their online story Turning Doctors into Leaders, doctors’ responsibilities have evolved dramatically. Older generations of doctors remember arriving at their jobs before dawn, reviewing each and every test result, returning home only when each patient had been properly cared for – the focus exclusively on patient care is astounding. While the same objectives apply to doctors today, there is certainly more of a push for leaders in their organizations to understand the business of healthcare.

Why is this important? Why is this a challenge? If physicians elect to move into leadership positions, their responsibilities evolve from focusing on only their patients to focusing on the entire patient base of the staff they oversee plus the staff members themselves.

It’s not uncommon to hear physicians confronted with leadership lament that performance reviews, compensation structure changes, and the like are business decisions, which, up until this point, they were not faced with.

Rather than finding yourself in a cart-before-the-horse situation, know that succession planning and leadership development are the primary keys to mitigating the change in responsibilities healthcare leaders need.

Given how much time healthcare professionals spend in school, it should come as no surprise that the key to bridging the gap in the business of healthcare is none other than training and education.

Coordination of patient base care and organizational success leads many organizations to tap from within and promote physicians to CEO or other executive board positions. But what is it about physicians that’s so appealing in an industry where patient health defines all?

The answer: camaraderie. Ask yourself as an HR practitioner if you would be more likely to respond to direction from a fellow HR employee or from a non-HR employee who was promoted to being your boss. Chances are, you would respond more positively to the fellow HR employee’s guidance and direction. And while this trend is taking hold all across America, only approximately 5 percent of hospital leaders are physicians.[1]

This camaraderie is quite nuanced from the physician advocates of yesteryear; now we see a trend not for physician advocacy, but for leadership to make changes that improve the lives of their patients. The push to increase the diversity of health care leadership to include physicians-turned-leaders promotes a new way of approaching the balance between organizational success and physician advocacy.

As MBAs and other business degrees become more common for physicians, HR departments nationally must remember that the key to a seamless transition is to couple their business education with hands-on, customized learning that suits your organization. This doesn’t mean rigid all-day trainings, but social learning, and mobile-friendly bite-sized snippets that allow for digestible segments of information to be understood and learned. Business degrees can only teach a new leader so much. It’s HR’s job to round out that education by being the go-to source of information so your leaders can make the best decisions for the organization as a whole.

PeopleFluent’s healthcare solutions drive employee engagement at all levels, resulting in higher levels of patient care and satisfaction. As the transition from static one-size-fits-all learning evolves to continuous, collaborative learning, PeopleFluent has the right tools to take your leadership’s learning needs to the next level.



[1] http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/the-case-for-physician-ceos.html

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