CMO Duties Intensify, But Compensation Lags

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , March 3, 2011

For physicians who trade their white coats for business suits by taking chief medical officer positions, there's still the pull of clinical work: that white coat. 

In some ways, physicians, ever competitive and super-achievers, want it both ways as CMOs. And that may not be a bad thing for healthcare, but for the physicians, that may mean more work, and for a few, simply not liking the job.

A recent survey of chief medical officers at health systems and hospitals reveals hints of what I'm talking about. The Physician Executive Leadership Center's annual compensation survey for 2009-2010 showed that more physician executives are adding clinical duties to their plates, and going through formal management training and education.

Reflective of physicians' competitive natures, perhaps, a significant percentage of CMOs currently in a senior position, with an average age of 55, have or are pursing a management degree. And the numbers are increasing: from 60% in 2001 to more than 80% in 2009, the survey shows. The degrees sought are MBA or other specialized graduate degrees.

"For most physicians, they are wanting a bigger impact than they have as an individual physician," says David Kirschman, executive vice president PELC, which specializes in physician executive search. PELC has conducted the survey of chief medical officers in hospitals and integrated systems since the early 1980s.

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