Physician Leaders: Bridges to Better Care

“Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), has created an urgent need for qualified physician leaders to guide its implementation. Experts in the field point out that physicians are front and center in the effective execution of the PPACA because, in practice, they control the quality and the resource utilization of medical care, both key aims of the new legislation” (Pregitzer, 2014).

As healthcare shifts from volume-based to value-based, physicians can lead the charge for patient-centered care. As Angood and Birk (2014) argue, optimal patient centered care requires:

  • A relentless focus on quality
  • Patient safety at the forefront
  • Streamlining for efficiency
  • Measuring for evaluation
  • Building on a foundation of evidence based practices
  • A value-driven mindset
  • Innovation to move forward
  • Fair and equitable care
  • Ideally a physician (or clinician) leader

While Angood and Birk (2014) argue that patient centered care is ideally physician or clinician led, research indicates that doctors and other clinicians need to acquire new skills to be effective leaders. Physicians may need to learn how to shift from episodic problem solving, an approach that serves them well as clinicians, to big picture thinking. According to the American Hospital Association, specific competencies for physician leaders include:

  • Leadership training
  • Systems theory and analysis
  • Use of Information Technology understanding
  • Cross disciplinary and multidisciplinary team skills
  • Population health management
  • Palliative care
  • Resource management and medical economics
  • Health policy and regulation
  • Interpersonal communication competency (including conflict management, emotional intelligence, and cultural diversity knowledge)

Currently only 5% of hospital leaders are physicians but the demand for doctors that also have health administration skills is rising (Angood & Birk, 2014).

University of Southern California’s Executive Masters of Health Administration program prepares physicians to take on leadership roles by providing an education in many of these areas through 5 Curricular Themes:

1. Innovative Leadership Through Transformational Times

Developing executives who anticipate health care delivery system changes and create strategies to take advantage of these opportunities to maximize organizational potential.

2. Cost Effective Care in Era of Value-Based Purchasing

Developing a cognitive and intuitive understanding of the fundamental factors driving health care delivery system evolution (cost and effectiveness) and how organizations can evolve aligning with these objectives.

3. Efficient Management and Administration

Translating the fundamental factors of cost and effectiveness in the internal operations of the organization to improve productivity, clinical outcome and patient experience.

4. Patient Safety and Quality of Care

Operationalizing outcomes that matter to payers, organizations, and clinicians.

5. Organizational & Clinical Effectiveness through Information Systems

Demonstrating how health information technology systems provide a foundation for the strategic growth of the organization.

More detailed information about USC Price's EMHA curriculum can be found here.

EMHA graduates, including physicians, cite that the program gives them an advantage in furthering their career goals.

Stacy Tarradath, Academic Hospitalist, "The EMHA program definitely enlightens you on everything that's going on – not just ACA, but on the triple aim of health and value based care. We're moving away from the hospital. It's opened a lot of doors. I don't just have to stay in the traditional hospital setting. There are roles for physicians outside of the hospital and the clinic, so I'm really excited about that. "

Kavita Kansagra, Physician/Medical Director, “I have been opened to a lot of different opportunities. I have been offered a CMO position."

Jerome Finkel, Physician,"As a physician attempting to impact health care, my knowledge and my skills needed to be expanded. I can put the things that I learn to work immediately – and I have."

If you’d like to learn more about USC’s program, please see the video testimonials of current and former students here.

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Angood, P., & Birk, S. (2014). The value of physician leadership. Physician Exec40(3), 6-20.

Epstein, R. M., & Street, R. L. (2011). The values and value of patient-centered care. The Annals of Family Medicine9(2), 100-103.

Goodall, A. H. (2011). Physician-leaders and hospital performance: is there an association?. Social science & medicine73(4), 535-539.

Pregitzer, L. M. (2014). The future of physician leaders: A study of physician leadership practices. Pepperdine University.

Stoner, C. R. & Stoner, J. S. (2015). Inspired physician leadership: Creating influence and impact. American Association for Physician Leadership®.

Xirasagar, S., Samuels, M. E., & Stoskopf, C. H. (2005). Physician leadership styles and effectiveness: An empirical study. Medical Care Research and Review62(6), 720-740.

Anna Montgomery, MPA

Written by Anna Montgomery, MPA

Anna Montgomery earned her MPA at USC Price and is pursuing her EdD at USC Rossier.