Building a Bigger C-Suite

Molly Rowe, for HealthLeaders Magazine , May 13, 2008
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Patient safety, quality, and transparency have become focus areas of the federal government and the public. Organizations risk financial losses if they don't meet quality standards and CEOs and their boards need a quality program that exceeds the capabilities of the standalone quality department, says Hartung.

Sometimes called the "chief quality and patient safety officer," this position is filled by board-certified medical doctors trained in quality improvement and clinical outcomes initiatives. They also must be strong leaders with the charisma and credentials to change the practice of medical staff and get members buy-in.

Recruiting such a person can be a challenge, Hartung says. Although some medical schools offer related courses, there are no full academic programs or accreditations for a CQO. "There are not enough of these people in the marketplace. Hospitals and health systems are having to pay premium dollar for these people," says Hartung.

Chief strategy officer
Some hospital CEOs can manage operations while still overseeing long-term strategy. But at many large organizations, strategy takes on a life of its own. This is especially true at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, where success depends on attracting patients from a broad geographic region.

"In many ways, the CSO represents our leading edge—what we're going to be doing tomorrow and in the future. What is happening in the marketplace? What do we need to do to ensure that we're in the right place at the right time at the right price?" says President and CEO Christopher Dawes.

The CSO's role is to implement the strategic plan while determining the relationships that will make the plan achievable. Originally called the "vice president of strategy," the CSO was renamed last year to reflect his hospitalwide role, Dawes says. "When the CSO meets with others outside the community, I want people to know by his title that he can speak for the organization and that he is the same level as the COO and CFO."

Molly Rowe is leadership editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at
Before you add a new chief …

 Adding a new title to your executive team? Consider these tips from Cejka's Deedra Hartung:

What is the desired end result? Don't simply develop a new title because it's in vogue. Look at your organization: Are you meeting your goals? Do you have a strategy that's going to get you where you want to be? Build your human capital leaders in association with those goals.

Network with other organizations. Explore positions in other organizations to understand the critical ones, and then recruit for those.

Know what you need. Determine the credentials a new position requires and don't settle for less. "Sometimes organizations decide, ‘We can get by with this person because he makes less money … I'm just following the board's request.' It's better to do without," Hartung says.

More chiefs

Here are a few more executive-level positions that are popping up: The other CIO cultivates research and development across the organization and identifies new products, services, and care delivery models.

Chief innovation officer:

Chief governance officer: As boards become more involved in the organization's inner workings, the job of board management has grown to include continuous board education and coordination.

Chief learning officer: Also called the "chief knowledge officer," the CLO's job varies. Some CLOs are high-level human resources people. Other CLOs are research/innovation experts, bringing knowledge and ideas to the organization.

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