Challenges for Healthcare Leadership Boards

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

But that changed with the onset of an unprecedented upheaval in reimbursement, as well as changes to standards for quality and safety for patients, which are reshaping how healthcare organizations are operating to stay competitive. These shifts have created new challenges for healthcare leadership boards.

The opinion leaders we talked to in the course of this study mentioned three types of healthcare board behaviors they considered to be particularly important:

A solid board must insist on the correct information. It should emphasize the importance of quality and safety goals and provide trustees with meaningful targets. This means using measures endorsed by the National Quality Forum and developing a robust strategy for benchmarking which identifies and explains the best performers. The goal is to empower trustees to challenge each hospital and system to improve their quality and eliminate medical errors.

The board should also consider recruiting trustees with expertise in the field of quality and safety (e.g. high reliability, Six Sigma), to serve as chair and members of the Quality Committee. In ideal circumstances, these people could be drawn from other industries such as aviation or nuclear power. This will ensure that the board has a specialist on hand to guide and support the CEO and other employees in establishing and achieving the right goals and ensuring that the healthcare leadership is doing everything it can to improve the performance.

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