How Health Systems are Right-Sizing Their Boards

Philip Betbeze, September 7, 2016

Prudent healthcare executives and boards are busily rethinking the size, composition, and focus of their governing bodies.

This article first appeared in the September 2016 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Matthew Heywood
Matthew Heywood

Upheaval characterizes the business of healthcare over the past few years. Roughly since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, executives and boards have slowly recognized the reality that healthcare spending will not remain an ever-growing pie where the size of your slice depends on the volume of procedures and admissions you can generate. The timing of when and how extensively that change comes varies by market, but just as executives have to change focus and dive into areas that are unfamiliar, so also do boards have to adapt to sweeping change.

Because of consolidation in the healthcare industry, many organizations have found it necessary to reduce the size of their board or eliminate some legacy boards altogether. Some committees are also fair game for elimination or reorganization due to shifts in priorities. At the same time, boards are being pushed to take a more active role in corporate affairs. As the need grows to streamline corporate structure, so it also grows to streamline board structures to ensure the organization's processes are as efficient as possible. This requires not only eliminating duplicative committees, but also redefining the expertise boards need, and perhaps even reducing some seats.

The reality for prudent health system boards is that they have to change as the incentives and the healthcare business landscape does. Those changes include a greater focus on value and quality in healthcare, but they don't stop there. Board members want to change size, composition, and focus to help the institution they love and represent adjust, but they're not always sure where to start.

Philip Betbeze

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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