- Hands-on experience is the number one quality of a good physician executive candidate.
- A physician executive benefits a business from a financial standpoint and as a liaison between the health care world and the corporate world.
- Physician executives directly affect employee well-being by optimizing policy and extracting value from data that many companies aren’t currently taking advantage of.
- Part-time physician executives offer a practical solution for smaller businesses.
Physician Executives’ Impact on Workplace Well-being – Part 2
In part 1 of my conversation with our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ajay Kohli, and Dr. Ray Fabius, Co-Founder, and President of HealthNEXT, we discussed the many ways COVID-19 has brought to the forefront the need for physician executives in the workplace.
As a quick re-cap:
A physician executive, or what might also be known as a corporate medical leader or Chief Medical Officer, guides the strategic plan and actions of protecting and promoting a company’s most important asset, its people. They help organizations navigate what is best for the health of their workforce by utilizing years of medical expertise.
We continued this conversation discussing the qualities of an effective physician executive and the overwhelmingly positive effect they can have on organizations’ well-being, whether it’s at a time as uncertain as now or not.
What are the most important qualities of an effective physician executive?
Ray: A company should not just bring any doctor into the fold to provide guidance. There is a subset of physicians who are either trained or who have, over time, honed skills that make them better able to play the role of a physician executive.
For those companies that are exploring having a physician executive, it makes sense to look for people who have practiced medicine, are currently practicing medicine, and who might also have an additional advanced degree. Physician executives that are trained both in medicine and law, such as Ajay, or medicine and business, have a tremendous opportunity to play a role in corporate America, by being able to act as the translator across both of those domains.
Ajay: Additionally, I feel it’s important that physician executives have ample experience practicing medicine. Until you’ve taken care of a patient independently, outside of medical school, you don’t really know what it’s like. In medical school, you learn a lot of the science and you go through the rotations but you don’t really know what it’s like to take care of a patient on your own.
Ray: I, for one, practiced for a decade before I even started to embark on any medical leadership roles, and I can say that I rest a lot of my recommendations on that experience.
What is the business benefit of hiring a physician executive? Let’s say I’m the chief executive considering bringing on a physician executive. Is this just adding cost to my business?
Ray: The business benefit of hiring a physician executive is best illustrated through some real-world examples. Bruce Sherman, while he was the corporate medical leader for Goodyear, was able to show a direct correlation between how much money was spent at a particular factory on the healthcare needs of their workforce and how many tires were not approved at the end of the run, and were considered waste. He was able to show a direct linear relationship between the health of the workforce and the degree of waste at the manufacturing site.
I’ve written several articles about how companies that are recognized for their culture of health and well-being outperform in the stock market. So we have remarkably tangible examples of the business impact that a healthy workforce can provide.
Ajay: To add to that, I think that while a physician and a business person might speak different languages initially, a lot of the skillset and tools that both industries bring to bear, share a lot of commonalities. Medicine is focused on gathering information about a patient, analyzing data, and making decisions about patient care, similar to what you might encounter in the business realm. I think, today, there’s a lot more overlap that both industries have, and it’s really important to have a physician executive to translate and bridge any gaps between the two.
How do physician executives directly affect the health and well-being of their company’s workforce?
Ray: In addition to improving the work environment, facility design, and policies, physician executives can play a remarkable role in strategic planning.
Companies that excel in building a culture of health and well-being are companies that have multiyear strategic plans.
Companies who just reflect on their approach to the health and well-being of their workforce on an annual basis during enrollment are not doing an appropriate job of building the strategy that’s required to get workforces healthier and higher performing.
Increasingly, employers are not just engaging in a contract with a health insurance plan to provide health benefits, but are also engaging in contracts with pharmacy benefit management companies, disability management companies both for short term and long term disability, workers comp companies to help manage workers comp claims, and more. In every one of those contractual relationships, you need to have someone by your side who understands the bigger clinical picture, so that you can pick the right partner and establish the right performance guarantees.
But it goes way beyond that. Increasingly, employers are actually gathering data that has clinical significance, and without a physician leader able to interpret that information, you can’t get the value from the data that’s being collected.
I’ve heard that there are part-time physician executives consulting for numerous companies at one time. It seems reasonable that SMBs and even some mid-market organizations would look for a right-sized solution. How do part-time physician executives help companies?
Ray: In one of the textbooks I published, I did some calculations and found that any company that has 10,000 to 20,000 employees ought to be thinking about having a full-time Chief Medical Officer. For companies that are smaller than that, which is the vast majority of companies, there’s increasingly the opportunity to have a part-time physician executive on retainer. This can be thought of as similar to a company having a part-time Chief Legal Officer or have a law firm on retainer if they aren’t big enough to have a full-time Chief Legal Officer.
Ajay: I act as Archetype’s part-time CMO, my primary role is to bring my experience and background both as a practicing physician and as a former attorney, to inform some of the consulting engagements and venture capital investments that we engage in. I love working in the innovation space, and I think enhancing or augmenting the business world perspective that the rest of the Archetype team brings by informing decisions related to health care has been extremely valuable.
What would you say to those who might still be skeptical?
Ray: To me, it’s astonishing that most companies, large and small, have either a chief legal counsel or some legal counsel on retainer if they’re a smaller company. And pretty early on, when a company gets formed, they’re seeking a consistent legal consultant. And yet, they’re not doing the same thing on the medical side.
It is as if a company is more concerned about their liability risk than the health and welfare of their greatest asset, their human capital.
Stay tuned for the final part of our discussion as we discuss specific ways that physician executives can bring health care experience over into the corporate environment. For additional resources from our ecosystem, take a look at the 7 Ways Archetype’s Ecosystem is Responding to COVID-19.