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ACOs, partnerships make VP of network development jobs even more important in healthcare

While most facilities now have someone in this role, the rest are surely on the verge of hiring one

David Weldon, Contributor

The surge in accountable care organizations and other network affiliations between healthcare providers is spelling big financial opportunity for hospital vice presidents of network development, a position that experts say is key in connecting the clinical and the business side of a health network.The surge in accountable care organizations and other network affiliations between healthcare providers is spelling big financial opportunity for hospital vice presidents of network development, a position that experts say is key in connecting the clinical and the business side of a health network.

The surge in accountable care organizations and other network affiliations between healthcare providers is spelling big financial opportunity for hospital vice presidents of network development, a position that experts say is key in connecting the clinical and the business side of a health network.

While most facilities now have someone in this role -- or someone with the title of director -- the rest are surely on the verge of hiring one, and they're looking for someone with direct healthcare experience, clinical understanding and strong leadership abilities.

"Almost always healthcare industry experience is required," said Kimberly Bowden, president and CEO of 1st Solution USA, a search firm specializing in healthcare roles. "The reason why that is so important is that you are interfacing at almost any level with clinicians. There is a different language there. A lot of people coming from other industries don't know how to talk the talk and have that clinical speak."

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Bowden said the ideal candidate should have at least worked with clinicians at all levels – executives, physicians and chief medical information officers. And they should be equally comfortable relating with anyone in the organization, from a CEO executive to a nursing assistant.

Those are usually best served by someone with strong tenure, Bowden said. That means "Someone who has gone through the ranks at a company, has established themselves and earned a breadth of experience at that company, versus someone that has left a job after two years to get that experience."

"The next thing needed is, not only a strong background in the industry of healthcare, but also what we call the ancillary departments of the hospital. They need to have a strong understanding of that workflow," Bowden said.

They also need to be masters at communication since these executives are relationship builders.

"They can't be timid," Bowden stresses. "They need to be direct. They have to be able to speak their mind."

Most importantly, the need to put eh patient experience first, Bowden said.

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"In a hospital everything you do affects the patient, and if they don't have that patient-focused mentality, that's a red flag."

Salaries on the rise

For the candidate that possesses all of the above skills and qualities, compensation hovers around a $150,000 base salary with sizeable bonus structure.

"At this level a person is very motivated by the ability to achieve beyond their base salary, so bonuses based on performance or on organizational performance are important," Bowden notes.

VPs of network development are also in demand, so competition for them is strong. Besides offering competitive compensation, a hospital or healthcare center needs to sell itself.

"Are they one of the best places to work in their area," said Bowden. If so, flaunt it.

In addition, "they need to speak to their quality measures, to their patient satisfaction levels," Bowden said. "They need to emphasize where they are in the meaningful use stages. It's a red flag if they're way behind on those requirements."

Big demand

Hiring in healthcare is strong across the board, said Anthony Caponi, vice president of healthcare information technology at Direct Consulting Associates, who said his firm typically handles three to five searches per month for vice presidents of network development.

 "You have your meaningful use dollars that are kind of winding down. That was the key driver in the industry from 2008 to now. Most health systems have accomplished getting off paper and onto an electronic platform for the electronic patient record. That has driven a lot of activity."

[Also: Hospitals test out merits of off-site medical staff]

But growing competition is making the hiring process take longer than for other positions.

"A lot of it is lining up these individuals," he said. "This is really a key role within the healthcare environment. Often [during the client's interviewing process] they're bringing in the CEO, the CFO, the CIO, not to mention the other VPs that are peer, and the team that they'll be potentially managing."

"Usually we'll submit candidates within two weeks, but we've seen the interview process take 90 to 120 days from first interview to offer," Caponi says.

Caponi also said that salaries are increasing for these individuals.

"The health systems are waiting until they find that right candidate, and when they do, we're seeing an increase in salaries and bonuses of about 20 percent," Caponi said.

But Caponi also said employers can expect too much from a candidate, and that is adding to the search time.

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"If they have 75 to 80 percent of what [the client is] looking for that's about where they need to be for us to submit [the candidate]. It's our job to say to our clients, 'Here's what's out there. I know you're looking for these 10 things – here's someone that has seven or eight of them that we really think you should take a look at.'"

But they don't always succeed at convincing hiring manager of that, Caponi said.

"I do think hiring managers could do a better job of being open to someone that doesn't meet all of their specific skillset needs. [They should be willing to consider] somebody that they could feel good about, would be a good fit for their team, and will work hard to learn, as well as keep honing their skills on what they're good at."

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