"The position of CMO is an administrative role and does not directly provide any patient care," says Rew, emphasizing the lack of importance of a practicing physician in the post.
"In fact, in order to gain a better perspective on how to improve the quality of care within a hospital, it is often inadvisable for a CMO to be an active member of the medical staff."
As hospitals weigh filling CMO positions, many believe the post has greater weight and complexity in the healthcare reform era. The role's mission is to improve not only clinical care but organizations' business portfolios. Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., earlier this year named joint chief medical officers, both practicing physicians, to handle what its leaders termed the "complexities of the evolving healthcare landscape."
With such complexities comes the growing importance of hospital-physician alignment. Many organizations are finding value in placing practicing physicians in leadership positions, in part to improve relationships by sharing that first-hand clinical experience.
As for the two Florida hospitals, they have full confidence in Smith as their CMO. In his role, Smith "will work to continually strengthen the relationships between physicians, clinicians, and nonclinicians," spokeswoman Rew says.
The ability to do the job could be enhanced, however, if those relationships included a common bond based on a shared clinical experience.