As private practitioners, physicians have a firm grasp on practice operations. However, once employed, many physicians abdicate this responsibility and expect the network management team to do it all.

Having the right leadership team in place is key to effectively managing employed physician groups. Dealing with a diverse group of physicians under one roof and trying to manage practices across multiple sites is complex at best. Many of our clients ask, “How complicated can this be?” Our answer: “It’s a lot more complicated than you think!”

Management Infrastructure

Successful management teams have a non-physician leader, such as a VP of Physician Services, working closely with a physician leader. These individuals share a mutual understanding of how to manage a multi-specialty group of physicians, and must:

  • Keep the group strategically focused;
  • Have a firm grasp on revenue cycle;
  • Implement best practices across the organization;
  • Drive quality and volume;
  • Manage network referrals;
  • Cultivate physician leadership;
  • Build a group culture;
  • Reduce practice losses; and
  • Align physician compensation with the goals of the organization.

Managing a large employed physician network requires a distinct and separate set of skills. Many leaders are well equipped for small groups of 25-30 physicians; however, they become overwhelmed when the network reaches 100-150+ physicians. At that level, the VP of Physician Services acts more like a CEO of the physician enterprise. Being able to motivate and influence the practice management team and build strong relationships with a more complex physician base takes someone with experience. Leadership must develop practice managers and ensure site supervisors are in the right roles and can handle responsibility.

Practice managers and site supervisors must be able to implement operational best practices identified by senior management. A well-rounded manager or supervisor can work closely with physicians, lead the office staff, have an understanding of the revenue cycle and how it affects their practice, ensure physician schedules stay full, and be able to communicate issues up the chain of command when necessary. As networks grow, the above skills are often overlooked, which can be detrimental to the efficiency of the overall network.

Assessing the capabilities of the leadership and management team will shed light on leadership gaps, which will assist you in creating a plan to re-align the skill sets in your employed physician network. It’s important to periodically step back and ask yourself where you see the organization in the next five years. Reference your strategic plan as a roadmap for identifying the leaders and managers necessary to achieve strategic goals and objectives for the organization.

Ultimately, recruiting strong leaders and managers requires being able to identify the successful qualities needed in a candidate. For many, we recommend a thorough review of the management infrastructure to assess the effectiveness of the existing management team. An outside healthcare consulting firm can assist you with this process and will help guide you through the tough decisions in building a solid team. They will help you recruit the most qualified candidates to fill or replace positions within your leadership team. You are only as strong as your weakest link.

Terrence R. McWilliams, MD, FAAFP

Chief Clinical Officer and Managing Director, Employed Provider Networks