What Traits Mark the Ideal Healthcare CEO?

Hospitals & Health Networks (H&HN), a publication of the American Hospital Association (AHA), featured an article this month on the traits needed to be a successful CEO in today’s environment. This week, in the first part of a two-part blog post, we’ll begin looking at some of the new challenges and new skills needed for success.

For decades, Jon B. Schandler acted as CEO of White Plains Hospital in Westchester County, just North of New York City. In 2010, seeing retirement on the horizon in just a few years, Schandler worked to create a seamless transition of leadership as his hospital sought to develop more specialized services and find physicians to provide them.

Schandler ultimately found a worthy successor in Susan Fox, an MBA and an RN. Not only had Fox worked as a pediatric intensive care nurse, but her time as senior manager of consultants at Ernst and Young gave her over a decade of experience in strategic planning and managing integrated physician operations.

Fox came to White Plains Hospital as senior vice president of administration in 2010, and spent the next five years honing her skills. Her background in nursing led her to introduce multidisciplinary rounds, coordinating care with everyone from therapists to case coordinators. Today, Fox is CEO and revenues are up while the average length of stay is down at White Plains Hospital.

While this particular hospital is a success story, hospitals all around the country struggle to find the crucial leadership and vision they need. CEO turnover rates are currently at record highs, averaging over 17 percent in the past five years. White Plains Hospital is just another example of the vital importance of finding skilled CEOs in a healthcare industry that is constantly evolving. And the ideal candidate will have a unique combination of skills.

First and foremost, an ideal CEO must be adaptable to change. A recent AHA survey found that over 80 percent of hospital executives see change management as one of the most critical of leadership skills. Carol Geffner, president of Newpoint Healthcare Advisors, says that bringing about change requires both imagination and flexibility. Geffer believes that healthcare is just beginning to move from volume to value simply because reimbursement often does not support value-based care.

Next week, we’ll explore some key traits in detail: the need for CEOs to be data-driven, financially focused, motivated to take action, adept at resolving conflicts, skilled in matrix management, and willing to gain a greater understanding of clinical competency.

To learn more, visit the AHA’s online publication, Hospitals & Health Networks: http://www.hhnmag.com/Magazine/2015/June/cover-new-health-care-CEO
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