Challenges for Healthcare Leadership Boards

Healthcare has been a complicated highly regulated, highly controlled industry for decades. Up until 2013, senior executives and the boards that oversee them could count on an industry that was stable and predictable.

But that changed with the advent of an unprecedented shift of reimbursement and changes to the quality and safety of patients, which are reshaping how healthcare organizations operate to remain competitive. These changes have brought new challenges for healthcare boards.

In the course of this research, we interviewed opinion leaders who discussed three kinds of behaviors of healthcare boards that they considered to be particularly significant:

A strong board should insist that the correct information is provided. It must emphasize the importance of safety and quality goals and provide trustees with meaningful targets. This requires utilizing National Quality Forum-endorsed measures and creating a robust benchmarking strategy that identifies top performers and understands the processes they employ. The aim is to empower trustees so that they can challenge every hospital to improve quality and reduce errors.

The board should also enlist the help of trustees who are experts in the science of safety and quality (e.g. high reliability, Six Sigma) to serve as chairmen and members of the board’s quality committee. Ideally, these individuals could be drawn from other industries, such as aviation or nuclear power. This will ensure that the board has a specialist in place to assist the CEO and other staff in establishing and achieving appropriate targets and making sure that healthcare leadership is doing everything it can to improve its performance.

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