Viewpoint: We need physician CEOs 'more than ever'

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan selected Atul Gawande, MD, to helm the companies' healthcare venture. Alexi Nazem, MD, founder and CEO of online healthcare job marketplace Nomad Health, wrote in STAT about why a physician leader is "exactly what this new company needs."

Here are five highlights from the op-ed:

1. As a physician and entrepreneur, Dr. Nazem said he believes two things about fixing healthcare: innovative outside companies can only mend the system, and those companies should be led by frontline healthcare workers.

2. "Brilliant technologists have come in and remade nearly every industry, so it is tempting to dismiss the healthcare 'insider,' a word that tends to scream legacy, staid, incremental, and stubborn," Dr. Nazem writes. "But to have an impact and lead disruption in healthcare, it is necessary to understand how things work and don't work; how to improve processes; and how to speak the language of medicine as well as the language of business."

3. Dr. Nazem references many "move fast and break things" ideas that failed to live up to expectations once face-to-face with healthcare's complexities: Google Health, wearables company Jawbone, web-based EHR Practice Fusion, telemedicine kiosk provider HealthSpot and Better.

4. However, Dr. Nazem writes he is enthusiastic about Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan's venture and their selection of Dr. Gawande as CEO. He pointed to Toby Cosgrove, MD, former CEO of Cleveland Clinic; Jonathan Noseworthy, MD, CEO of Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic; Steve Corwin, MD, CEO of New York City-based NewYork-Presbyterian; and Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System CEO David Feinberg, MD, as physicians who "for decades married great empathy with vision and business acumen and, as a result, have made notable strides in healthcare delivery."

5. While Dr. Nazem writes the physician CEO is not a novel idea, a newer role is the startup physician CEO. He referenced value-based care network Aledade's CEO Farzad Mostashari, MD, and value-based care provider Iora Health's CEO Rushika Fernandopulle, MD, as examples.

"This group is often characterized by being passionate and willing to step out of the system as we know it and attack fundamental assumptions about healthcare. ... These leaders reap a distinct advantaged [sic] from being insiders, but aren't handcuffed by legacy challenges," Dr. Nazem writes.

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