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In August, 2015, the Physicians Foundation, in partnership with Brandeis University, facilitated a conference focused on building a physician leadership curriculum that helps to empower physicians to navigate today’s complex and ever-changing healthcare system. The conference brought together a host of academics, practicing physicians and representatives from an array of state and county medical societies. The event focused on advancing the work of physician leaders in the most comprehensive, pragmatic and efficient manner possible. Given the profound changes underway in healthcare (e.g., transition towards value-based care delivery and payment models, rapid medical consolidation, increased reporting requirements and regulatory oversight), it is more critical than ever to equip practicing physicians with the tools, knowledge and insights necessary to serve as influential leaders.

To better understand the thoughts and perspectives of practicing physicians, and the issues they feel are of foremost importance to physician leaders today, we conducted a survey of 425 physicians across 12 states (in collaboration with Brandeis University and a number of state medical societies). The respondents ranged in positions from C-suite executives and clinical directors to practice owners and doctors in private practice. The survey was very telling, as it revealed deeper insights into what physicians feel are the primary opportunities and challenges associated with physician leadership.

Some of the key opportunities include:

Managing change: Enhancing patient experience; more flexibility with practice models; and fostering efficiency

Team-based care: Increasing collaboration, communication and team building

Quality of care: Exploring ways to enhance quality and safety of care and employ best practices that can be replicated across the country

Job satisfaction: Developing professional growth and working towards maintaining independence and autonomy

Alternatively, physicians surveyed also see a range of challenges in the areas of physician leadership, including:

Administrative challenges: Increasing levels of paperwork; recruiting physicians; physician buy-in to changing rules and quality metrics reporting, and overall bureaucratic management issues

Monetary: Financial pressures; income concerns; reimbursement challenges tied to quality reporting metrics (related to both government and commercial payers)

Health system changes: Lack of definition and specificity with quality improvement requirements and measures; changing payment and delivery models (e.g., ACOs, value-based payment models such as bundled payments); significant disconnect between patient care needs and what the healthcare system stipulates

The survey demonstrates there are many challenges that need to be addressed, but this time of change also presents opportunities to improve our healthcare system and ensure that physicians continue to play a central role. We know that for any change to be successful, physicians must be a leading voice in helping to formulate effective policy at the national, local and state level.

The term physician leadership tends to be overused and oversimplified. Yet, the reality is physician leadership is a multifaceted, complex area that requires careful study and analysis of its individual components (e.g., administrative and regulatory changes, alterations in payment and delivery models, balancing clinical needs and sustainable business practices, etc.).

This is the first in a series of posts focused on physician leadership. The Foundation’s goal is to begin a dialogue with practicing physicians, state medical societies and other key stakeholders on the role of physician leadership, its various components and how best the medical community can work together to maximize our success.

We invite to share your thoughts by emailing us at info@physiciansfoundation.org or engage with us on Twitter at @PhysiciansFound.