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CMO Duties Intensify, But Compensation Lags

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 3, 2011

The survey also indicated that the percentage of fulltime CMOs in hospitals and health systems who have clinical duties was up to 15% -- up from 12% the previous year. "More physicians doing clinical work this year – that was a surprise," Kirschman says. "Every chief medical officer in a hospital works a lot of hours and [has] many things to do. When do they have time for clinical work? My guess would be they don't have much time for it."

A note in the survey report suggests that the findings seem "counter-intuitive given the increased administrative and leadership responsibilities of the chief medical officer positions."

Eventually, something will have to give, the report suggests. Eventually the number of CMOs who have clinical responsibilities "will remain low or perhaps fall even further" as the complexity of the CMO position increases. "We believe that those who do report continued clinical and academic duties are in reality minimally involved in those activities on a day to day basis," the report states.

Still, physicians who are continuing to work as CMOs as well as clinicians, whether at urgent care centers or even volunteering at clinics, "see it as a challenge," Kirschman says, "keeping a hand in something they were trained in for so many years." He notes that physician executives sometimes face criticism for "not being physicians anymore: suits." By involvement in clinical activities, "they are keeping their hands in it; and it helps credibility," Kirschman says.

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