07 Top Leadership Teams: Team Concepts for Win-Win Physician Relations

Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders Magazine , December 13, 2007
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Building Relationships

Hospital chief executives have been spending more time and energy lately on physician relations. CEOs and chief medical officers participating in the Top Leadership Teams' physician relations panel said such efforts are part of a push to align closely with the medical staff.

For instance, at Scripps Health in San Diego, CA, the senior team created a physician leadership cabinet of elected doctors to help steer the strategic direction of the organization, said CEO Chris Van Gorder. "That's been a major change in terms of culture between the hospital organization and its medical staff leaders," said Van Gorder.

Richard Salluzzo, MD, president and CEO of Wellmont Health System, said that his organization also shares control with physician leaders. "We're moving toward a Mayo model," he said. "You have to have very good hospital operations. I think hospital operations is something that's underrated as something that's important to docs."

Salluzzo also predicted that hospitals will need to be willing to partner with physician groups--from outpatient partnerships to the syndication of hospitals.

"Docs don't want to reach into their pockets and get the money," said Salluzzo. "But if you could convince them to do that, now it's their show. They can't complain about the way things are done if it's their hospital."

Many administrative teams across the country are struggling with the issues of payments for emergency room call coverage. The physician-relations panel could relate to this common struggle. In one of the first regions to deal with the call-coverage dilemma, Baptist Health South Florida convened a task force of medical staff leaders and administrators to create new operating principles.

"There was zero sympathy for Baptist Health out there," said Brian Keeley, CEO. The task force was very fruitful, he said, because it sparked economic relationships with physicians. "A lot of those are transitioning now into employment," he said.

But panelists acknowledged that physicians are not motivated solely by compensation. Salluzzo said at Wellmont, patient safety is the focal point around which administrators and physicians can partner. But Salluzzo added that physician partnering cannot be just lip service--a hospital must be willing to share authority.

"We have physicians leading every one of our key service lines," he said. "We have a large cardiovascular group in town, and they manage all of our inpatient and outpatient cardiac surgeries. We have a large pediatric group in town, and they actually manage our children's hospital. So we're not just talking; we're giving a lot of autonomy and responsibility to physicians along with the medical staff leadership concept."

Baptist Health South Florida, Coral Gables, FL:
Brian E. Keeley, president and CEO
Thinh Tran, MD, chief quality officer

Mercy Health System, Janesville, WI:
Javon R. Bea, president and CEO
Mark L. Goelzer, MD, medical director

Scripps Health, San Diego, CA:
Chris D. Van Gorder, CEO
Brent Eastman, MD, chief medical officer and corporate senior vice president

Wellmont Health System, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky:
Richard Salluzzo, MD, MBA, president and CEO; founder, Safest Hospital Alliance
Anthony Oliva, DO, chief medical officer

-Rick Johnson

Read more about the 07 Top Leadership Teams in Healthcare Annual Conference and Awards

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