Across the US, 39.8 percent of total healthcare spending is spent in hospitals (ranging as high as 49.4 percent of dollars in South Dakota to as low as 32.9 percent in New Jersey). Collectively, hospitals employ 42 percent of the physicians in the country.
Clearly, hospitals play a central and significant role in our $3 trillion healthcare system. Given those stakes, it should come as no surprise that hospitals are complex businesses.
There are multiple layers of leadership and decision makers; it can often be challenging to identify the right stakeholders to target. One of our recent posts focused on the C-Suite level of hospital leadership — who they are and what they care about — but there are more roles within a hospital that a MedTech business needs to understand. Clinical leadership encompasses some of those roles. In this piece, we’ll examine what clinical leadership is and who makes up a clinical leadership team.
What is Clinical Leadership?
Clinical leadership is often quite different than the C-Suite. That’s because these leaders are clinicians both in terms of training and work experience: physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals. They rely on extensive clinical skills, deep knowledge in delivering care, and advocacy of the patient. On top of this domain expertise, clinical leaders are expected to provide expert leadership.
If your product or service is directly used in the care of patients or by actual clinicians, you’ll more than likely need to target this group, as they are routinely strong influencers in which products and technologies are used in practice and very often play the role of final decision makers.
Clinical Leaders Are Different Than the Non-Clinical C-Suite
On the surface, it would seem clinical leaders have very different motivations than the C-Suite administrative leaders, who are more focused on the business and financial aspect of running a hospital. However, as reimbursements change, the pressures of delivering high-quality clinical care and watching the bottom line are starting to merge (be sure to check out our recent post on Accountable Care Organizations).
Clinical leaders and Administrative leaders face common challenges for which they need solutions. Much of what both groups desire is quality care at a price that the payers of healthcare (Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, employers and patients) are willing to reimburse. Clinician leaders aren’t immune to financial pressures, and they know that they have to be involved in reaching the hospital’s goals around quality while also facilitating change with regard to the financial targets.
Often times hospitals that empower and elevate their physician leaders alongside their administrative leaders have a comprehensive view of an entire set of challenges and possible solutions.
Different Types of Clinician Leadership Roles
Understanding the role clinical leaders play in hospitals continues to grow in importance for salespeople and marketing teams. To successfully sell your product, technology or service into these complex organization and successfully navigate evolving goals and initiatives, it’s vital to understand these important clinical leadership roles and what drives their decisions?
Chief Medical Officer
A Chief Medical Officer (CMO) is a licensed physician, which makes them different than other C-Suite position holders who often have experience in healthcare management, not actual caregiving. A CMO takes their experience as a physician and shifts into a role of overseeing clinical operations. The CMO often acts as a go-between for doctors and hospital executives.
The number one goal for any CMO is to make sure patients receive the highest quality of care. They ensure this by hiring, evaluating, and training new physicians. CMOs also have an eye on finances, as they work to initiate a cost-effective and efficient process in the clinics, pharmacies, operating rooms, and beyond. CMOs have to often be the “cheerleaders” on the clinical side to implement change when it’s in the best interest of the patients and the organization. A well-connected CMO can also be a valuable ally if your company is trying to organically grow a physician referral network.
The first driver for CMOs is innovative and better patient care. They may be able to find ways to achieve this with products like yours if those products are directly related to improving patient care. This realm of products doesn’t only pertain to medical devices or treatments. Improving patient care can also be tied to better communication, more efficient procedures for admission or discharge, or limiting the number of readmissions after a procedure or illness. There are many tools out there that could influence these areas and would be of interest to CMOs.
After you’ve estimated the market opportunity, the way to best target this group is to start from a place of improved care and tell the story of how your product or service will help them get there.
Under a CMO, the hospital may have a list of associated leaders for each specific specialty, like a Chief of Surgery or a Chief of Cardiology. Within each discipline, the motivations for these leaders become narrower, as they are specialists, so you would target these leaders with a specific product or service that pertains to surgical procedures or heart disease. If your product is that specific, your best bet is to start with the leader of that specialty and then move upward to the CMO.
Chief Nursing Officer
A Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) is the highest level for a nurse to achieve in management. The position is usually held by an experienced registered nurse. The CNO acts as a spokesperson on behalf of the nursing staff, who have many tasks related to patient care and the successful coordination of all nursing operations.
As the lead for all nurses in a hospital, a CNO will have great insights into what’s working and what’s not for nurse management, which could include being short-staffed as there continues to be a shortage of nurses according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). CNOs have to work in very narrow windows to ensure more challenges aren’t exacerbated by lack of staff.
This group of hospital leaders has a varied group of responsibilities. The CNO is an adviser on best nursing practices, a catalyst for change when needed, and a recruiter for new talent. They may be interested in a myriad of products that could make the day-to-day operations easier as well as applications to give their hospital a competitive edge on bringing in new nurses.
Specialized Clinician Leaders
Beyond physicians and nurses, there are many other clinicians that work to care for patients. These types of clinicians include:
These groups of clinicians may also have a place at the clinician leadership table. Depending on how large the hospital is, or if they pursue a concentration in any of these clinical areas, it may have a designated “chief” for many of these clinical roles.
As discussed in our earlier post on hospital leadership, you’ll want to target those for whom your product or service is specifically applicable. They may not be the ultimate decision makers, but getting them interested means they can serve as an influencer and champion along your path winning a new customer.
The challenging part is always convincing any physician to become your product champion. Ultimately the clinical data and outcomes on your product or technology will be the biggest influencer. However, by now we’ve hopefully convinced you that clinical leaders are a different beast.
Given the complexity of a hospital’s dual leadership structure, you’ll need to go further and help translate how your product helps not only patients but will also impact other initiatives and goals important to the broader hospital leadership team. Given a clinical leader’s unique role, you should certainly create a comprehensive strategy to target these influencers, champions, and, ultimately, decision makers.
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Beth Osborne is a professional writer and content marketer with multiple years of experience in healthcare IT marketing. Learn more about her by visiting her website.