Integrating “Physician Champions” in Healthcare: A Q&A with CEO Gyasi Chisley (Part I)

Gyasi C. Chisley

Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this post, Gyasi Chisley has taken a position with United Healthcare.

Gyasi C. Chisley, the 38-year-old CEO of Methodist Healthcare North in Memphis and Senior VP of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, has been a rising leader in the industry since he started out as a “hospital environmental services technician” (essentially a janitor) at the age of 17. In 2014, he was named a Modern Healthcare Up & Comer for his considerable accomplishments as a young executive.

In the interview below, he discusses a pilot program he launched at Methodist North and his advocacy for improving physician/administrator relations. In addition, Chisley provides strategies for how others, especially young executives, can get their ideas off the ground.

Q: At Methodist, you created the Physician Champions program to promote clinical integration. Could you explain that concept?

Chisley: We are on a journey at Methodist to become physician led and professionally managed. Our physician partners are going to have to truly be an integral part of operation and innovation if we are going to be successful and become one of the best health systems in the country. We’re well on our way.

One of the things we introduced a year ago was the concept of physician champions to promote dialogue and collaboration between administrators and clinicians. We chose clinicians who were highly regarded by their peers and within the organization and dubbed them champions. The concept was born out of the need to integrate the physician perspective and improve outcomes of the various pillars for measuring success.

We started with five pillars in key areas like service, quality, finance, growth, and people. And now we’ve broadened the concept to cover more esoteric things like readmissions, length of stay reduction, and ICD-10 implementation.

The physician champions own the outcomes of that pillar and report out — with the support of their expert or administrator — reinforcing dialogue, to ensure that the physician perspective is heard, and acted upon.  If its physician-to-physician communication, it carries a lot more weight and they start to raise their eyebrows a little bit.

It’s an idea we call the dyad model; it’s a concept that has been written about in healthcare for quite some time, but is still in its infancy in real-world implementation as a management tool.  This need for cohesion between clinicians and administrators is an ever-increasing priority as more hospitals, physician practices, and systems are merging and forming partnerships.

Q: How have you seen the program grow cohesion between physicians and administrators?

Chisley:  As the administrator and physician form a dyad to address an individual pillar, they work closely together to present metrics, strategies, and tactics to effect meaningful and sustained change. And through this they also come to appreciate each other’s journey and decipher each other’s language and jargon. This equips them to better understand the “other side,” so to speak, and better interpret messages and meanings. Administrators learn to recognize what schedules are really like for physicians, and how there is not always enough time in the day for patients. And physicians better understand the issues and motivations behind administrators’ strategy. It’s generating dialogue, that appreciation, between two different disciplines that work within the same building and want to achieve better ultimate outcomes for our patients.

Q: What results have you seen so far?

Chisley: We were at 80% of our goals from a performance standpoint with an expectation of 90%. We saw an increase in patient experience scores, an increase in our quality outcomes, and witnessed a rather remarkable shift in market share from a growth perspective. As we transfer our focus from volume to value, we are working to become an even stronger provider of choice and stay true to our faith-based Mission.  We have a cardiovascular surgeon and a radiologist as physician champions in growth, and we saw their areas expand by 20%.  And most importantly, the staff has embraced the concept, which matters more than anything. We’ve created a lot of buzz within the organization about being physician-led and professionally managed.

Q: If other young executives have ideas about improving their organizations, how should they go about promoting them?

Chisley: I’m big on being effusive about your ideas. I think now with the advent of the ACA and all the changes with healthcare reform and the healthcare delivery model, we need innovation in healthcare . . . we need some energy, some passion, some compassion, to ensure we change directions.

The younger generation, the millennial generation, that I’m seeing has a lot of great ideas. It’s up to us [today’s healthcare leadership] to listen and seize that creativity. So I would encourage anybody that has an idea to root the concept in data — I’m big on data. Without effective measurement, there is oftentimes a lack of management.  Then discuss the idea with bosses, mentors, professors, to develop partners. I think we are poised to see some amazing strides within the next 5 to 7 years in healthcare.


Stay tuned for Part II, in which Chisley discusses mentoring and more advice for early careerists in healthcare.


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