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Convincing Rival Docs to Become Partners

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, February 2, 2012

To organize teams of erstwhile rivals, health system leaders must manage egos, negotiate ambitions, and acknowledge that they may be bringing on board some professionals who can't stand one another.

Abraham Lincoln did this in the 1860s as he pulled together a Cabinet that included people who wanted his job, challenged other's authority, and had not much use for the others' opinions. President Lincoln managed to steer his way through by focusing on a bigger goal: victory in the Civil War.

The New York Yankees did it in 2009, winning a world championship several years after Alex Rodriquez, the mega-millionaire shortstop with the Texas Rangers, signed with the club and was forced to switch positions and swallow some ego. Rodriquez then played third base, side by side with his onetime friend, Derek Jeter, who insisted he wasn't going to budge from his shortstop position. There's still speculation about how much they talk.

Like politicians or sports teams, merging groups in healthcare are often forced to work together after being competitors for years. Can physicians who compete and dislike one another put their differences aside and join a hospital organization with the shared goals of maintaining quality and reducing costs? Can they overcome the competitive mindset? Can they achieve championship-quality healthcare?

It is a difficult process that health systems are beginning to grapple with, especially as more physicians become aligned with hospitals, says Lawrence S. Levin, PhD, a leadership and team consultant. Levin, founder and president of the Levin Group in Atlanta, and author of Top Teaming: A Roadmap for Leadership Teams Navigating the Now, the Now and the Next, often works with former competing specialty groups to develop the team mindset he says is needed for a successful practice or relationships with hospitals.

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