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Give Your Physicians an Incentive to Lead

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, August 19, 2011

John Hensing, MD, is executive vice president and chief medical officer at Banner. I interviewed him as part of this month's leadership story in the magazine, "Time to Trash Your Org Chart?"  but I didn't have enough room to use his interview in the article. That's a shame, because he and his colleagues are working on some innovative stuff from a leadership standpoint, evidenced by the fact that Banner is making a big effort to include physicians at the top of the leadership food chain. You can see why it just snagged one of HealthLeaders Media's Top Leadership Team Awards.


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"Where we're going will require an even higher level of clinical performance, financial discipline and sustainability," he says. "We're moving from a services-based to outcomes-based industry. That means clinical leaders will be essential."

Within the past five years, Banner has grown its CMO base more than eightfold, from three to about 20, and most of them are facilities-based, meaning they (presumably) understand the problems and unique situations facing practicing physicians at particular hospitals and physician practices. Edicts don't come down from on high anymore, rather, the local CMO works with physicians to tailor solutions in an environment where fee-for-service will become less common and reimbursement will be at risk, says Hensing.

The individual hospitals can serve as demonstration projects, if you will. Every fourth Wednesday, Hensing convenes a meeting in which the he and the CMOs who report to him spend four to five hours discussing initiatives and performance targets and to review overall strategy.

"We are fortunate to have a single board of directors overseeing fiduciary and quality accountability for every operating unit," he says. "That includes not only the hospitals, but the surgical centers and medical groups. All of our entities report clinical and financial performance up to a single board. That allows us to have a very important tool for standardization. Second, we have a single senior management team that reports to that board. All clinical leaders report to me. It's an operating company model with direct reporting to a central leader. That's uncommon in the nonprofit world."

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