Nancy Donohoo recently joined Tyler & Company as Vice President, with more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry. She brings a deep understanding of executive talent needs across multiple sectors due to her work with health systems, payers, and life sciences companies. Here, she offers her insight into industry trends around physician executives and chief medical officers.

Q: What trends are you seeing across the industry with regard to physician executives and CMO searches?
A: I would say both payers and healthcare delivery clients are interested in candidates with strong business acumen and tangible experience driving change or growth, ideally in a risk-sharing or capitated environment. It used to be enough to have excellent training, a solid clinical track record, and six-to-10 years of utilization management and provider network experience to qualify for a regional medical director role or even certain CMO positions. Today, that won’t even get you invited to the dance.

Clients are looking to physician leaders to be more than a clinical advocate in the boardroom. They want a CMO who can read and interpret financial statements, participate in negotiating value-based contracts, drive innovation across the medical management function, and advance the strategic goals of the enterprise. Having exposure to a variety of insurance product lines is also very attractive, with the highest demand being the government sector; i.e. Medicare Advantage and Medicaid, due to the changing beneficiary base.

I recently talked about industry trends and the rise of physician CEO positions with Donna Katen-Bahensky, former CEO of University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. She's been leading healthcare organizations for 30 years and has noticed new roles emerging, such as innovation center leadership, vice president of population health, chief quality officer and chief medical information officer.

Due to the development of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and clinically integrated networks, medical directors need to analyze more diverse data sets, so analytical skills and critical thinking is at a premium. For example, this might include patient demographics, inpatient, ambulatory, pharmacy, behavioral health claims, health risk appraisal reports, EHR encounter data, and quality metrics. Candidates who are technologically savvy and have been responsible for implementing an electronic health record (EHR) and patient registries will have a leg up in this sector.

Q: Any other skills sets that are important?
A: Given the sheer amount of consolidation across the industry, physicians with mergers and acquisitions or joint venture experience are desirable. Medical Affairs leaders who have spent time on a due-diligence team evaluating potential partners or leading the integration efforts post-merger can immediately step in and add value when a deal is afoot. Knowledge of regulatory compliance, and more importantly, the ability to foster a culture of compliance, has also become more significant in the last few years. I see this in the life sciences and health plan sector especially.

Q: What about the softer skills and personality traits?  
A: Physician executives have always had to be adept at influencing others (e.g. peers, bosses, external stakeholders) without direct line authority, but I believe it is more crucial than ever. In population health management, we are literally asking physicians to think differently and practice differently every day in order to achieve the triple aim and hit quality targets, such as Medicare star ratings. This is not an easy sell. To really move the needle on cost and quality, we need clinical leaders who have the managerial courage to hold others accountable—in a professional way, of course. That is especially true for recalcitrant providers whose compensation is at stake, or for those holding out until retirement. Katen-Bahensky looks for physician leaders who are “continuous learners, great listeners, highly ethical, optimistic and have the ability to build teams.”

Reach Nancy Donohoo at 314-296-6208 or

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