Healthcare Quarterly

Healthcare Quarterly 4(1) September 2000 : 38-43.doi:10.12927/hcq.2000.20514

The Role of the Physician Executive in Managing the Healthcare Value Chain

Ajay Singh and Eugene S. Schneller


Over the past few decades, physicians have increasingly assumed executive roles in the U.S. healthcare system in various settings - managed care organizations, group practices, provider networks, hospitals, and integrated delivery systems. While it is not clear how far Canadian health policy and restructuring will move to introduce aspects of the marketplace reform to shape system change, certain features of the directions being taken in the United States, such as the application of population- based data to shape individual physician behaviour, transcend our boarders. In the United States, physician executives (PEs) have been a key part of initiating and implementing change. U.S. PE leadership is different from traditional physician leadership in healthcare organizations. Here, the work of PEs has two principal features: (1) organization and management (i.e., getting the job done by others) and (2) strategic planning (i.e., setting directions and strategies). In many respects the scope encompassed by these two features is very challenging, with the strategic view being very wide and the perspective achieved in organization and management close to the one experienced from the driver's seat. As detailed below, PEs in the United States engage in three very distinct areas of management:
  1. Knowledge management that pertains to core competencies and strategy.
  2. Value chain management.
  3. Change management.
To the extent that these areas are interlinked, they provide the foundation for truly boundary-spanning opportunities to help the PE attain a unique niche in healthcare organizations, transcending what could be achieved by being just a physician or an executive. These areas let the PE enjoy the "best of both worlds" - clinical as well as managerial.



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