How UPMC and BayCare Medical Group are shaping physicians into leaders


The nature of the hospital-physician relationship has undergone numerous changes in recent years, particularly in regards to physician participation in leadership. Challenges unique to the modern healthcare environment, including the transition to alternative care models, have increased demand for physician leaders.

To meet demand, hospitals are increasingly looking for physicians with the behavioral skills and business acumen necessary to become successful leaders.

How can healthcare organizations find and hire quality candidates with the potential to become leaders at their organization? One solution involves changes to the organization's hiring process, said Bryan Warren, director of healthcare solutions at Select International.

During a June 26 webinar, hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Select International, Mr. Warren discussed how the use of physician assessment tools can aid hospitals and health systems in the physician hiring process. Mr. Warren was joined by Barbara Sharpless, director of physician services at Clearwater, Fla.-based BayCare Medical Group, and Michael Anderson, vice president of human resources for the physician services division at Pittsburgh-based University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

One of the biggest changes in the medical field in recent years has been the increase in physician turnover rates, which greatly impacts an organization's operational capabilities, Mr. Warren said. Physician turnover stems from a number of issues, particularly the potential mismatch between physicians' expectations of their role and organizational leaders' expectations. Even if a clinician wants to step into a leadership role, they may find their education and training did not adequately prepare them for that next step in their career, he noted.

To help find and hire quality candidates, Mr. Warren said organizations should look to incorporate physician assessment tools, which typically consists of brief online exams that allow hospital officials to obtain a more wholesome view of the candidate. The tool works for the initial hiring process, as well as after the individual has worked at the institution for some time, as it provides them with a better indication of how their individual performance affects the organization as a whole.

"You can't take your nurse hiring process and superimpose it on your physician hiring process," Mr. Warren said. "Physicians respond well to [the use of assessment tools] if they can see how the organization is affected by their own performance … We've got to [ensure] these tools [demonstrably] link back to organizational performance. Candidates have responded quite well to [these tools] … they go through the process willingly."

Ms. Sharpless said the possibility of finding better physician candidates led BayCare Medical Group to deploy Select International's physician assessment tools during its hiring process. She explained prior to using the tool, the organization's interview process did not provide officials with an in-depth understanding of each candidate and how they would fit into the organization.

"We had fewer candidates and more competition for those candidates, and we had a lot of openings. We also found that we were bringing in candidates, but there was no depth to the interview process, so it was essentially, 'hey, did that five minute meeting result in a positive experience or negative experience?' and that was the basis of whether or not we made an offer. It was very sketchy," Ms. Sharpless said. "We weren't getting the candidates we wanted and certainly didn't feel like we were getting the quality that we wanted."

However, since incorporating the assessment tool, Ms. Sharpless said the physicians BayCare Medical Group has hired appear to be more engaged and seem to be a better cultural fit for the organization. She also noted that hospital executives began requesting each candidate complete the assessment before being brought in for an onsite interview, particularly during the hiring process for specialist physicians.

While Mr. Anderson said UPMC's hiring process is "fairly standardized" and relies on behavioral guides to determine candidate fit, he said the organization supplements those results with physician assessment tools to try to find "areas of opportunity" that illustrate how a potential candidate may prove to be a good fit at the $16 billion organization.

Once hired, those candidates have access to a wealth of opportunities to expand their leadership training, he noted. UPMC works with the University of Pittsburgh to host a "mini-MBA" program for clinician leaders to provide physicians with "a mix of both behavioral-type training and … some of that practical business acumen work." Rather than teaching Finance 101-type classes, the program is geared toward providing physician leaders with a better understanding of the health system's operational and financial objectives so they can successfully lead their teams with those goals in mind.

Mr. Anderson said the health system also offers a number of self-selective leadership opportunities for clinicians who want experience and exposure to better prepare them to take on those roles later in their careers.

"In healthcare, we find the best nurses don't always make the best nurse leaders. Similarly, we find the best physician doesn't always make the best physician leader. But we can try our best to really shape those physician into leaders," Mr. Anderson said.

Listen to the webinar recording here. View the webinar slides here.

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