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CMO Duties Intensify, But Compensation Lags

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 3, 2011

Generally, service line leaders such as CMOs do not have much independence in decision-making, according to the HealthLeaders Media Survey 2011. About 70% of respondents say they have moderate decision making authority, with some independence but major decisions must incorporate other hospital initiatives and priorities. About 6% say their decision-making is largely independent.

Keeping a hand in clinical activities doesn't always mean more money. Interestingly, the PELC survey shows, those with clinical responsibilities earn about 10% less in compensation than those who don't. There's no clear explanation for this, says Aamir Rehman, MD, senior vice president of Navvis & Co., the parent corporation of PELC. "We intend to follow up on this data point in next year's survey."

Contrary to years past, hospitals and health systems are working with physicians on a formal basis in quality and informatics issues on a fulltime basis, he says.

And in that process, the evolving physician and hospital relationship is only gaining importance with integrated systems. Those relationships are still being ironed out. I asked J.R. Thomas, president and CEO of MedSynergies of Irving, TX, a provider of hospital-physician alignment strategies, about this issue. The leadership and experience of a physician in clinical matters appears to help the physician and hospital relationship, Thomas says, citing "doctors who are clinically involved and respected by staff" in healthcare facilities.

With an added responsibility for quality and operations, CMOs are finding their duties have much more "intensity" than in other years, according to the PELC survey. "We project continued emphasis on these duties in incoming years," the survey and attached report states.

Generally, CMOs having more clinical duties also have had more years of clinical practice before entering management, and were happy they made the career turn in that direction. "Virtually all participants feel that their move into management was an excellent decision and they are mostly satisfied with their career and current situations," the PELC survey states.

According to the survey compensation increased 2.5% in 2009 for physician executives serving in a full time chief medical officer position, with the average total annual compensation at $323,967, including base compensation and bonus or incentives. Hospital CMOs reported that they expected their 2010 salary to also increase 2.5 % over 2009, a "gain we expect we will expect to see in the next survey results," the survey shows.

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