It looks like the complete takeover of health care by generic managers is nigh. 

Who Are Now Candidates to be Hospital CEOs?

On PRWeb is a summary of data about what sort of CEO candidates hospitals' boards of trustees are seeking:

A Black Book Rankings poll of 1,404 healthcare provider organizations’ human resources officers and board members revealed the developing trend affecting the way headhunters will seek candidates. Black Book estimates that two-thirds of CEOs hired in 2014 will have little to no healthcare sector experience, in favor of non-industry productivity, business development and financial management experts with heavy technological expertise.

From where are the new CEOs coming?

 Among survey respondents, the most intriguing new hospital CEO candidates are emerging from the Venture Capital, Private Equity industry (idealized by 42% of survey participants), Finance and Accounting (40%), Banking (32%), Technology (22%), Marketing and Sales (19%), Not-for-Profits ( 14%), and Pharma/Biotech (12%).

Note that the CEO candidates did not seem particularly intimidated by running a hospital without any relevant experience, knowledge, or possibly values.

 94% of new CEOs without extensive hospital backgrounds indicate they do not believe healthcare expertise is required for replacing other senior leadership team members after a management overhaul.

Why Are Health Care Naive CEOs Increasingly Common?

What is causing the attractiveness of candidates without background in, knowledge of, to particular agreement with the values of health care?

'An outside hire will not have developed hospital management skills from within or understand an organization's unwritten rules at first, but that’s not a bad thing either as more hospitals face fresh ideas to avoid bankruptcy, expedite smoother consolidations, conquer payment reform, and productivity issues,' said Doug Brown, Managing Partner of Black Book™.

In addition,

A new CEO’s first decisions are often distruptive to a hospital’s staff, particularly the incumbent management team. 'An outsider's perspective on hospital operations will be controversial but often credited in several facility turnarounds for bolstering organizational financial stability, and ultimately profitability,' noted Brown.

It is not just Mr Brown's opinion,

89% of board members hiring outsiders agree that broad business operational expertise and singular vision pays off with fresh perspectives on efficiencies, value, cost savings, and the goodwill to the community.

What particular circumstances might prompt hospital boards to look for health care naive CEO candidates?

 'Hospitals facing stalled growth or new competitive challenges need fresh thinking. Hiring internal candidates with the same norms and values as your current team will not meet the long term strategic growth needs of the hospital organization. Relevant outside thinking makes a valuable contribution, enhancing business vitality, longevity and sustainability. Staying contemporary, revitalizing your brand, enhancing products and expanding into new markets all begin with the next person you interview and add to your senior leadership team,' added Brown.

By the way, similar surveys suggest the same trend affecting other parts of health care,

Payers, chains, ancillaries, ACOs, support firms, vendors, medical product manufacturers and pharmaceutical firms are tapping other business’ top talent, a major shift from the 'healthcare industry experience only' mindset for executive placement that has prevailed since the 1970’s, according to corresponding Black Book 2013 surveys.


 In 1988, Alain Enthoven advocated in Theory and Practice of Managed Competition in Health Care Finance, a book published in the Netherlands, that to decrease health care costs it would be necessary to break up the "physicians' guild" and replace leadership by clinicians with leadership by managers (see 2006 post here). Thus from 1983 to 2000, the number of managers working in the US health care system grew 726%, while the number of physicians grew 39%, so the manager/physician ratio went from roughly one to six to one to one (see 2005 post here). As we noted here, the growth continued, so there are now 10 managers for every US physician.

Health care went from being controlled by clinicians to controlled by a growing volume of managers.  Most of these managers were generic, in that they had little if any knowledge of, experience in, or sympathy to the values of health care. These generic managers have used the same techniques advocated for the management of supermarkets or automobile manufacturers to manage health care organizations, despite all the obvious differences in context, goals, values, and people involved.  They also have been trained in theory of maximizing shareholder value (even though non-profit health care organizations have no shareholders), which actually means maximizing short-term revenue (financialization), and then using that revenue as an excuse to plutocratic pay packages for management.

The survey results above say the takeover is nearly complete.  The majority of top hospital management recruits are now generic.  It appears that the majority of top management recruits  in health insurance, medical device, pharmaceutical, and other health care corporations are also now generic  The reasons for their recruitment suggest that those exerting stewardship over hospitals are completely abandoning interest in improving health care, patients' outcomes, clinical practice, or anything related.  Instead, look at the wording (highlighted in color thus above) reflecting their concerns.

This is all about

 productivity issues

long term strategic growth

business vitality

revitalizing your brand


cost saving


Nobody is talking about quality of care, improving practice, patients' outcomes, public health, or about honesty, integrity, and particularly not about putting patients first.

Instead, it is now going to be all about the money. 

So of course the US has the most expensive health care (non) system in the world, and that system manages to at best be mediocre by nearly every measure of health outcomes. 

I say once again that true health care reform would put in place leadership that understands the health care context, upholds health care professionals' values, and puts patients' and the public's health ahead of extraneous, particularly short-term financial concerns. We need health care governance that holds health care leaders accountable, and ensures their transparency, integrity and honesty.

But this sort of reform would challenge the interests of the generic managers who are getting very rich off the current system.  So I am afraid the US may end up going far down this final common pathway before enough people manifest enough strength to make real changes.

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