Downloading Success: Emerging (and Sustainable) Healthcare Leadership Roles

Contributor: Paul Bohne
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image003.jpgWhen I speak with healthcare executives about career ambitions, I caution them not to get too fixated on any one position title. I’ve seen many finance executives, for example, who had their sights set on the CFO role only to end up in something different and fulfilling. (Occasionally it’s as CEO.)

I like to encourage executives to look around and consider positions that will allow them to grow and find meaningful work. This is especially true in healthcare today since roles – and titles – are changing.

On that note, allow me to highlight five executive titles I see gaining significance and importance in healthcare, no matter what the unpredictable future holds. These are positions that seem to have sustainability – once created at an organization they will be around in good times and bad. 

Chief Clinical Officer
The importance of being physician-led is stronger than ever as the care delivery model has changed. Cost and quality will continue to be industry obsessions, with the CCO right in the middle. This role is a modification of the Chief Medical Officer position, and of course requires an M.D. (and an M.H.A. or equivalent is preferred).

The CCO is charged with ensuring alignment and integration across growing health systems. As my colleague Linda Komnick noted recently, the CCO is someone who “sees the organization not as a top-down traditional clinical entity, but who could also look sideways across the network and see opportunities for clinical performance improvement, integration, and coordination of care across the continuum.” As industry consolidation continues and the need for physician leadership and clinical integration increases, the CCO role should gain traction.

Chief Experience Officer
The Chief Experience Officer (or often Chief Patient Experience Officer) has arisen out of the need for providers to be more in tune with consumer expectations. This need does not figure to go away as the marketplace in healthcare gets more complex and competitive. A recent white paper from the Beryl Institute remarks that the Chief Experience Officer “ensures a seat at the table for the voice of the customer to be heard and acted on when senior leaders gather and make decisions.” Experience officers frequently have marketing backgrounds, though that is not a prerequisite. A good inside perspective on the position can be heard in this podcast with Hartford HealthCare Chief Experience Officer Sean Rodriguez.

Chief Information Security Officer
Information security is one of the proverbial keeps-executives-up-at-night concerns. “It’s not a matter of if but when” is a common refrain about security breaches within healthcare. As such, there has to be an executive dedicated to fostering security best practices throughout the organization. “Some organizations are still struggling with building that culture of information security,” my colleague Nick Giannas has written. “It’s not only just building the team to support the information security officer. It’s also building that awareness and education around it across the organization.” Watch for the CISO role to continue to expand – it requires not just technological expertise but true leadership ability as well.

Chief Medical Informatics Officer
CMIOs cropped up as robust clinical information systems came online and health systems required an executive to oversee implementation and operational success. This role is now transitioning into one that is more strategic and forward-looking, exploring ways to optimize patient and other data for Triple Aim and other fundamental goals. Expect to see informatics leadership roles (including Chief Nursing Informatics Officer) grow in number and status. This “CMIO 2.0” position is often evolving into what can be termed the Chief Health Information Officer (CHIO).

Chief of Staff
This is a title that is gaining traction in healthcare as CEO positions (and directing a healthcare enterprise in general) become increasingly complex. The chief of staff can be many things, including the right hand to the CEO, to make sure the executive offices are functioning optimally, and even to stand in as a surrogate to the CEO for some responsibilities. The key to the success of the role is a strong bond between the chief of staff and the CEO. They must have complementary personalities and seamless interaction on the job.

A Note of Caution
I believe these roles above have staying power in healthcare. One caveat regarding them all: It is critical that the organization define the most important leadership competencies and behaviors that help define organizational fit and the specific measures of success for each role. This is done through a position description or what my company calls a “leadership profile.” Such a document ensures there is internal consensus around the role, its criteria, and its mandate or core agenda.  

Within each healthcare organization the impetus to address change will still fall upon the CEO, with critical input from COOs, CFOs, and other traditional senior-level peers. Increasingly, a broad and comprehensive team must be built around the CEO to capitalize upon change rather than merely wrestle with it. This is where new executive titles fit in.


Contact Paul at:
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