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Don't Expect Physicians to Lead Change

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, October 4, 2013

"We want doctors to be the leader of the team, but we don't teach them how," Nash says.

The physician is supposed to be the leader of this teamwork approach to delivering healthcare. But financial incentives alone won't necessarily deliver the expected outcome, says Nash. Physicians have to be trained to operate this way, because it's the opposite of how most were trained in school and in residency.

"Some people consider physician leadership an oxymoron," says Nash. "That's sad and totally not fair, but I've actually had doctors say to me there's no such thing [as physician leadership]."

Yet physician leadership as a concept or area of scholarly inquiry has received a lot of attention in the past decade. The school Nash leads in Philadelphia is ample proof of that in itself. But Nash says Jefferson's School of Population Health is far from sufficient to achieve the lasting change and value in healthcare that nearly all players in this game profess to want to achieve.

If value and higher quality are really the goals, Nash says, hospitals and health systems must take the lead on providing that training to their physicians. That's easier said than done; this training is expensive.

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