8 C-suite roles to watch

In the past year, more than 40 health systems have taken a closer look at their leadership teams — adding, subtracting, redesigning and combining roles to position their C-suites for the future

Here are eight evolving executive positions Becker's is tracking:

1. Chief growth officer: In January, LinkedIn's Economic Graph team released an analysis identifying the chief growth officer as the fastest-growing role in America. Oftentimes, these executives sport past experience as chief operating officers or vice presidents of sales or business development. As C-suites remain optimistic about growth in 2024, a chief growth officer can help catalyze upward trends: from revenue to the workforce. 

2. Chief information officer: The healthcare CIO has tapped into expanded responsibilities in recent years, Saad Chaudhry, chief digital and information officer of Annapolis, Md.-based Luminis Health, told Becker's last month. The COVID-19 pandemic created a sense of urgency around digital initiatives as remote work and care options evolved. Plus, technology is seeded in most aspects of operations, so "unlike other C-suite roles focused on specific domains, our role stretches across them all," Mr. Chaudhry said. 

3. Chief administrative officer: Many health systems are still establishing this officer's place in their C-suite, so "CAO" has a working definition. Oftentimes, the position evolved from leaders who got their starts in strategy, human resources or general counsel — and they wear a number of hats depending on their organization's needs, from integration strategy, to budget oversight, to resource optimization. One thing's for sure: The role is on the rise, with 85 systems submitting data for it in 2023. 

4. Chief AI officer: More health systems are hiring a specialized C-suite leader to guide their artificial intelligence strategy. The budding technology shows promise in improving clinical workflows, communications and even research capabilities. UC San Diego Health and Atlanta-based Emory Healthcare are among the AI chief's most recent adopters.

5. Chief of staff: Between 2019 and 2023, there was an estimated 65% increase in the number of health systems that submitted data for a chief of staff, according to a SullivanCotter survey. Beri Ridgeway, MD, who holds the title at Cleveland Clinic, told Becker's the responsibilities are "huge and wide-ranging." Currently, she is zeroed in on creating a sustainable infrastructure, leveraging talent across the organization and providing a physician's perspective at the tables where decisions are made. 

6. Chief of diversity, equity and inclusion: The position saw a meteoric rise between 2019 and 2022, surging 168.9%, according to LinkedIn data. Over the past year, the role has hit a snag amid the prohibition of affirmative action — and some lingering confusion between executives expected to change an entire culture, and their C-suites, which often provide them with limited power or resources. As a result, DEI initiatives are increasingly tied to the human resources department. In healthcare specifically, health equity goals are more clear-cut, executives told Becker's in September. The role is at a pivot point as DEI executives aim to demonstrate how equitable outcomes align with their organizations' strategic mission, internally and externally. 

7. CEO: The CEO role is undergoing a transformation at some health systems, at least at the campus level. Emory Healthcare recently did away with the position, instead naming each hospital's COO its top leader. By cutting through some of the red tape, Emory hopes to improve integration and communication, executives told Becker's in January. Similarly, Renton, Wash.-based Providence eliminated the CEO role at two California hospitals in November. 

8. The dual-role executive: More health systems have been combining C-suite roles, allowing them to streamline operations and cut costs. The dual role has expanded from more typical pairings, like the COO-CFO or COO-CNO duo, to more unique ones, like chief quality officer-chief compliance officers, or chief medical officer-chief quality officers.

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