It’s Time for Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare

It’s Time for Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare


The healthcare industry has been charged with making significant changes in the last few years. From value-based care, to population health and now precision medicine. Unfortunately, many hospital systems will not be successful due to the need for better leadership.

In a study conducted in 2015 by the Healthcare Center of Excellence (HCOE), participants were asked to identify 5 challenges they faced in implementing healthcare analytics. The participants included people from all levels of healthcare organizations from locations across the United States. The challenges were classified into 10 categories for further examination. The top 3 categories chosen were leadership (29%), data management (18%) and talent (14%).

Even more surprising was the source of the comments. As part of the study, the participants were asked to include their title on the survey form they submitted. The titles were summarized into general categories which indicated the responses included all levels of the healthcare organization, from C-Level to the Analyst. The participants were divided into two groups – wide span of control, which included participants at the director level and above, and narrow span of control which included all others.

The only challenges where the disparities were significant were in integration and processes. This is likely because of perspective. The wide span executives are anxious to see results of their investments through data integration versus the narrow span personnel desire for more and better processes to make their jobs easier. The lack of difference between the job types identifying leadership as a major challenge could also point to those in leadership positions not fully recognizing some of the areas they impact.

Consequently, I’ve spent the last two years researching, developing and testing leadership models as well as conducting interviews with C-level executives from healthcare and a variety of other industries to see how they approach leadership. This is not my first dance with leadership as I’ve been teaching leadership classes to undergraduate and graduate students for almost 10 years and have mentored people from several walks of life, from business to law enforcement. I have also been considered a leader since high school (I won’t tell you how many years ago that was).

Based on our research, we have identified the key determinants of leadership and what separates good leaders from great leaders. Some of the key findings include:

  • Leadership is not a skill, but a process that must be practiced every day. It’s like a maintenance drug for high blood pressure that must be taken daily or potentially suffer dire consequences or the professional athlete who continually works hard to refine their already exceptional skills to become better and more competitive. The leaders we interviewed regularly think about leadership. The great ones reflect on leadership situations before and after their day.
  • Leadership cannot be improved using a one-size fits all approach. It must be personalized to the individual and incorporate reflection and coaching to make sure the leadership vision has properly been implemented. Athletes are not the only ones benefiting from this learn-test-review approach to continuous improvement, but it is also utilized by a number of other professions, such as physicians, artists and yes, even professors.
  • Leaders can be born and made, but the great ones have certain innate qualities that give them a higher potential for leadership. These details will be covered in future postings and in the book, but coupling their innate qualities with their individual abilities dictates their leadership ceiling.

We’ve been reviewing the results with key leaders and presented it at the HIMSS Big Data & Healthcare Analytics Forum in San Francisco in May. One audience member, who was formerly in the military and a participant in several leadership workshops in his career commented that it was the most comprehensive leadership vision he’d ever seen. Please read the summary article and interview by Healthcare IT News.

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