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Clinicians in the C-Suite

By Debra Shute  
   May 08, 2017

In other words, a candidate’s tendency toward analysis or emotion, for example, isn’t nearly as linked to success as his or her willingness to be self-aware, reflective, and coachable.

“To be a strong physician leader, you need to be a good physician. I also look for people with warmth and energy,” adds Hundorfean. “But most of all, I look for leaders who are direct. I like people who say what they mean, and don’t waste time. When you’re dealing with patients, physicians have to be direct with them, and I want our physician leaders to do the same when they are talking to me, or to employees.”

Engagement and alignment

With the right pieces in place, clinician leaders appear to be a tremendous organizational asset. “We are extremely pleased with the leadership team we have assembled at Allegheny Health,” says Hundorfean.

For instance, AHN’s new clinical access medical director, Elie Aoun, MD, has in a short time helped redesign the system’s call center infrastructure and processes to make same-day appointments a reality for primary care and specialty care, Hundorfean says. “It’s a huge lift for our organization from a technological and operational standpoint and in terms of

collaborating with our many clinicians to make it possible.”

Since activating same-day appointments for specialty care in January 2017, AHN has seen a great response from patients, she says, adding that thousands of patients have called and scheduled same-day appointments.

“The provider perspective plays a vital role because Dr. Aoun, as a physician, understands the operational hurdles that specialty clinicians and practices might have in adopting a new scheduling system. Different clinical areas might have different issues, but Dr. Aoun took time to synthesize those unique issues, and he knows how important workflow, scheduling, and capacity are to an individual practice—perhaps more so than a leader who had never worked in a clinical setting,” Hundorfean notes. “Having him act as a liaison between our administrative leadership and our doctors was key to getting our caregivers on board, and instrumental in getting same-day appointments up and running as quickly as we did.”

Meanwhile, one of Rubino’s personal goals in leading Forbes Hospital is to drive patient-centered care at an organizational level, through robust engagement of physicians, nurses, and support staff.

“If we’re going to move the organization forward, it comes down to the engagement of frontline staff,” Rubino says. “It can get a little overwhelming in regard to the amount of tasks that are necessary to perform this job, but I get very uncomfortable if part of my day isn’t spent walking those floors, interacting with the nurses, doctors, and other caregivers. I learn more from that than I do almost anything else.”

Making himself visible and accessible also helps foster a culture of mutual respect, Rubino notes, which he views as essential to engagement—and engagement as critical to managing change.

“As a physician leader, I am in the best possible position to understand the issues or challenges the clinical staff may face when trying to deal with the problems at hand,” he says. “Speaking directly with the staff or witnessing the issue firsthand with my senior team provides the information to best determine a root cause and problem solve. This behavior, based on mutual respect, has a direct impact on our culture and generates engagement.”

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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