How will the CMO role change during the next decade? 3 experts weigh in

As the healthcare industry moves into a period of disruption — both by outside organizations like Amazon and by internal factors such as consolidation — leaders who hold the CMO title at their organization must also learn how to adapt to changing dynamics to push their institution forward.

The changing role of the CMO in healthcare constituted the main topic of discussion during an April 11 panel at the Becker's Hospital Review 9th Annual Meeting, which took place from April 11 through April 14 in Chicago. Panelists involved in the discussion included Dennis Lund, MD, CMO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford; Roy Smythe, MD, CMO of strategy and innovation at Philips; and Robert A. Cherry, MD, CMO and chief quality officer of Los Angeles-based UCLA Health.

Here are three thoughts panelists had regarding the evolving role of the CMO.

1. "[CMOs] face two obstacles: receiving adequate preparation for the role and the inherent complexity of the medical industry," Dr. Smythe said. "There are a number of skill sets you don't acquire by simply being a nice person and a good doctor. There's a science to [leadership roles] just like there's a science to medicine. You need to avoid the 'Ben Carson syndrome' — just because you're a great clinician doesn't mean you would make a great leader."

2. Dr. Cherry noted it's "difficult for many CMOs to break that glass ceiling [of leadership] because of the current training paradigm," in discussing the relative lack of leadership training available to physicians early in their careers. To become successful leaders and CMO candidates at any healthcare institution, physicians must "become embedded into the operational and financial structures of [their] organization[s] to obtain that acumen and drive success," he said.

3. "In 2025, we will be delivering healthcare, but the industry will be disrupted either from the outside or from within," Dr. Lund said. "Whoever entertains the CMO role should be nimble and flexible so you have the temperament to deal with change. But either way, you must be able to deal with it."

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