As the push for value-based care demands that hospital executives better align services across the care continuum, hospitals are increasingly appointing chief clinical officers and in many instances the role is becoming clearly distinct from a traditional chief medical officer.
The titles CMO and CCO have been frequently interchangeable, said Linda Komnick, principal and co-practice leader of Physician Integration and Leadership at executive search firm Witt/Kieffer.
But that is changing. Whereas CMOs are still integral for their ability to relate to physicians based on their own medical background, the CCO role takes on more of the patient engagement and clinical quality outcome work.
CCOs must understand lean performance requirements, a management style designed to reduce excess waste and care quality, and also possess knowledge and familiarity with electronic health records as well as experience with the integration of quality data and, broadly, the ability to improve processes, Komnick added.
"They need to be 'systems thinkers'," Komnick said. These physician leaders are consensus builders and facilitators, who must be comfortable living in ambiguity.
"That's what physicians are: always trying to diagnose and treat to analyze complex situations," she said. "They know how to empower and motivate."
Ten years ago, the role was very different. These positions focused more on physician behavioral issues, Komnick explained. Now, the CCO must be much more strategic with strong operational skills, as well as soft skills, or a mastery of interpersonal relationships. And many of these leaders have returned to school to earn an MBA in these areas - after they've gained experience in the field.
To find success, Komnick stressed, CCOs must join committees and lead initiatives. While an educational perspective is helpful, experience is perhaps the most useful trait.
"It's an exciting time in healthcare. There's a need for leaders to go above and beyond right now," she said. "From the IT perspective, these physicians have become more savvy in terms of data and metrics. They have to know how to share that data and make it meaningful to enable the right decisions."
This article first appeared in Healthcare IT News.