Trends in Healthcare: Building Leadership Competencies to Create Strong Hospitalist Programs

Guest Post By Linda Komnick and Jason Petros

Recent economic, legislative, and societal pressures are making the need for high-quality, cost-effective medical care management increasingly critical. And nowhere are the stakes higher than in our nation’s hospitals. With an inpatient population requiring more intensive care—and the associated costs of providing it soaring—hospitals are compelled to grow the leadership competencies of their physicians and create internal hospitalist programs that meet the needs of patients, staff, and payors alike.

Who are hospitalists?
Hospitalists come to their current roles as established physicians with years of experience and are involved in the oversight of every aspect of medical care from patient admission through discharge. They supervise the day-to-day operations of their medical teams and aim to ensure optimum, standardized inpatient care in a timely manner—without risking readmission or unnecessary cost.

Not an easy feat for those operating under a steady flow of laws and regulations ranging from pay-for-performance to penalties for readmissions and medication errors. High stakes indeed.

A growing need
In the last 18 months, Witt/Keiffer has seen a dramatic jump in the number of requests for hospital medical leaders with successful track records. Centers that have implemented small hospitalist programs are finding that their needs have grown; their initial allocation of four to eight hospitalists no longer suffices. Or, their hospital medicine programs have expanded to multiple sites and they need a C-level leader who can oversee the complexity of a larger program.

Further, hospitals that have yet to establish a hospitalist program are recognizing that they are becoming healthcare dinosaurs as the evolution of hospital management marches ahead.

Consider these numbers:
• Hospital medicine is growing faster than any other medical specialty in the United States today.
• More than 30,000 physicians across the country make their living as hospitalists.
• In the next two years, 57 percent of hospitals with hospitalist programs plan to expand their programs and 44 percent of hospitals without hospitalist programs expect to launch one.

Transitioning providers into their new hospitalist roles
You won’t find classes on accounting, strategic management, and resource allocation in med school. Many hospital physicians are simply ill-equipped to make the leap from scrubs to suits.

To meet the challenges that lay ahead, many of today’s most progressive hospitals are offering training programs designed to build leadership competencies among their internal medical experts. Other centers are turning to outside groups like the Society of Hospital Medicine, which offers an established leadership training program steeped in the fundamentals of hospital medicine.

Regardless of which route they take, hospitals are sending their physicians back to the classroom to ensure that these key personnel are trained to oversee the health of the hospital, in addition to the health of the patient.

On the job training won’t cut it
And the need for leadership training cannot be overstated. When transitioning to management, even brilliant, esteemed physicians find themselves flummoxed by the complexities of hospital administration.

Below are just some of the daily tasks on a hospitalist’s to do list:
• Develop and execute internal policy and structural programs.
• Create and lead cohesive, strategically aligned medical teams.
• Implement standards of care and improve clinical success rates.
• Establish a company culture that promotes provider satisfaction and low turn-over.
• Encourage patient and family involvement in the medical process.
• Scrutinize financial performance and cost-effectiveness.
• Maintain patient flow.
• Further develop hospitalist programs.

The latest trend in healthcare
Healthcare providers whose resumes boast expertise in dozens of medical specialties are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory as they take on hospitalist roles. Hospitals recognize this realty and are doing their part to offer key personnel training in management, finance, and human resources—among other fields—to grow leadership competencies and ensure the creation of a quality, internal hospitalist team. It’s one of the latest trends in healthcare. Are you ready?

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