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Governing Boards Must Align Skills with Need

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, July 6, 2012

In an environment of extreme ambiguity, hospital and health system board members need a wealth of diverse experience and skills to navigate a business environment as uncertain as any healthcare has ever seen. A premium is being placed on strategy and policy experience.

Consolidation within the industry leads to often-complex and political board recomposition dilemmas. Heavy investments are being made in technology and informatics, and in many cases, that's a skill set that's underrepresented on many boards, given the size and scale of those investments.

Further, many hospitals and health systems are undergoing a rapid restructuring of business units due to the changing dynamics of reimbursement. And finally, there's the renewed focus on quality, which Jim Gauss, chairman of board services at Witt/Kieffer, says, "is no longer a nice-to-do but a must-have."

The list of evolving responsibilities facing hospital and health system boards could go on and on, but Gauss says boards are having a tough time keeping up with the rapid pace of change.

"There used to be three to five people in established leadership roles on boards, and the thinking was that the others could be trained up, but that's no longer the case," he says. "There's a lot written on competency models for boards, and looking at those very carefully, they're frankly looking a lot different than current membership."

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