Key Skills Needed to Be an Effective Healthcare Leader

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The healthcare environment faces evolving challenge, which in turn means that the skills required for leadership are constantly changing as well. Whether it’s responding to new or modified regulations, bottom-line profitability pressures, new diagnostic or treatment techniques or integrating technological trends into system processes, what makes a person an effective system leader is the ability to balance all of these pressures alongside the needs of patients. Here are the key skills required to be an effective healthcare leader:

Change Agency

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, the healthcare leaders of tomorrow will be “change agents” for their organizations. This means more than simply responding to pressures and challenges as they roll in. Rather, it requires a proactive approach, anticipating challenges before they arise and staying abreast of industry trends. This means that leadership can never rest on laurels and must be constantly learning, as well as reviewing existing processes in search of greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

“Successful executives must be able to quickly assess their markets and develop, communicate and execute plans while managing constant change,” J. Stephen Lindsey, former CEO at HCA Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, told Becker’s. “Change can be especially difficult in situations when the interests of physicians and other professionals must align for the common goal of serving patients under a new business model.”


A Focus on the Bottom Line

The cost of care – for providers, insurers and patients – has been one of the driving forces in healthcare economics. According to Apex Revenue Technologies, the last decade has seen the average premium for family health insurance coverage increase by 80 percent – with the average annual cost of $16,351 in 2015.  Meanwhile, deductibles have increased: Apex reports that 58 percent of workers insured at companies with less than 200 employees had a deductible of $1,000 or more.

With such a high upfront cost, patients may only seek treatment when it is absolutely necessary and then duck out on payments after care has been given. This has led to many systems and healthcare leaders grappling with unpaid balances for treatment administered. Without the ability to collect on the full cost of treatment in a timely manner, budgeting for healthcare systems becomes a nearly insurmountable challenge.

Effective healthcare leaders – particularly ones armed with an MBA – are able to address this challenge head-on and from multiple different dimensions. This could take the form of the establishment of payment and collection plans, seeking more cost-effective treatment options or working more closely with insurance providers. No matter how they pursue it, leaders need to be able to explore all the different pathways to make sure that treatment can be administered in as cost-effective a manner as possible.


Conflict Management

According to Abdulaziz Al-Sawai, author of Leadership of Healthcare Professionals: Where Do We Stand?, published in Oman Medical Journal, healthcare systems only spend a small amount of time in what he calls “true collaboration.” Much of the time, leaders must act as mediators and manage conflict between different departments and competing interests.

Effective leadership is uniquely poised to settle these conflicts because a leader has the view from above of the entire organization. As such, they are empowered to intervene and set the course for a resolution that acknowledges the concerns for all parties while still putting patients and the system first.

“The healthcare leader must adopt a suitable approach for handling conflict at all stages with the aim of creating a positive outcome for all involved,” Al-Sawai wrote. “A leader can employ strategies such as competition, avoidance, compromise, accommodation, collaboration, bargaining/negotiation, mediation, facilitating communication, seeking consensus, and engendering vision to aid resolution of conflict.”


Armed with the above skills, and supplemented by a MBA in healthcare, the healthcare leaders of tomorrow will be able to respond nimbly to the changes roiling the industry and guide systems into higher levels of care and profitability.