4 changes facing health system C-suites

As the healthcare industry faces mounting challenges, systems are slimming down to navigate the storm from a leaner ship. 

Administrative workers are not the only ones facing job cuts: Now, C-suite leaders are vulnerable to layoffs too. And more CEOs are choosing to exit the top role on their own. 

Here are four ways health system executive boards have been changing with the times: 

1. Eliminating the COO role: Some health systems are removing the chief operating officer from their C-suites as a means of cutting costs. Wenatchee, Wash.-based Confluence Health just made the cut; Sovah Health did the same at its Danville and Martinsville, Va., campuses in March. 

In hard times, chief operating officers can become "chief optional officers," Molly Gamble, Becker's vice president of editorial, wrote in March. The role is one of few targeted for total elimination. One reason for this could be the variation of duties; COOs' jobs are less commonly understood, as they tend to vary from place to place.  

2. Reorganizing regions: Other health systems are reorganizing entire regions, readjusting the way leadership responsibilities are distributed cross-country. Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health is combining an Idaho hospital with a California one to create a single regional ministry; this will "streamline management and decision-making, reduce administrative costs and improve overall operating performance," the health system told Becker's May 4. 

Similarly, Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health is consolidating from five divisions to three, while Adventist Health in Roseville, Calif., is transitioning from seven care networks to five. 

3. Streamlining the C-suite: Health system "reorganization" sometimes signals executive job cuts. Jefferson Health's consolidation resulted in role elimination, primarily among leadership positions; Adventist's also resulted in leadership layoffs.

Other health systems are cutting C-level roles without a regional restructuring. Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health recently laid off some executives, including its chief consumer officer and chief transformation and digital officer. And University of Missouri Health Care, based in Columbia, cut five hospital leadership roles across the organization in March. 

4. Experiencing high turnover: Along with executive changes they plan on, many health systems are experiencing unplanned exits. In January, hospital CEO exits hit a four-year high — accounting for 21 percent of CEO exits across 29 industries measured by executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. 

In the first four months of 2023, the firm tracked 565 CEO exits, with 62 occurring in hospitals — a 72 percent increase from the same time period last year. 

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