Healthcare Leadership: Physician relationships, from a Hospital CEO’s perspective

Virtually nothing is more important to healthcare provider leadership than physician relationships.  Unfortunately, a significant number of healthcare leaders do not reach their full potential due to physician relationships. Other healthcare leaders enjoy great success, in large part due to their excellent physician relationships. It has been my observation that the more senior the position, the more critical are physician and medical staff relationships.

In a recent wide-ranging interview with Traci Bernard, President, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Southlake, Texas, I asked the following question:

What is your philosophy, your personal experience and any general observations regarding individual physician relationships and collective medical staff relationships?


Some of Traci’s responses were as follows:

“My experience is that there is a sense in many hospitals and among many administrative people that you can’t have a really great, long-term relationship with physicians. I disagree with that.

I believe individual and collective relationships can be created whereby there is sincere mutual respect … a relationship wherein each party sincerely takes the time to understand what the other party is trying to accomplish … a relationship that allows people and groups to compromise with integrity and meet in the middle.

Are you always going to agree? Of course not! Reality is that some strategies individual physicians and physician practices employ are not in the best financial interest of the hospital.  The reverse is also reality. Neither party is bad or wrong. Each is simply running a business, making a living and trying to make the best decisions while serving their patients.

Rather than faulting physicians for endeavoring to make the best decisions for their practice, focus on the many positive areas and issues of mutual interest and benefit to all. Over time, the positives will completely overwhelm and overshadow the negatives.

Work hard to understand both or all sides of each issue and then work together to accomplish the huge opportunities that are available only by working together!

We choose to focus on how we can help each of our physicians grow their practices in the way they want to grow. As our physicians do well, both individually and collectively, we will do well.  We are very clear … we are in partnership with our physicians … now and in the future!” 

As in all areas of our lives, there is almost unlimited power, potential and opportunity when we are united with our colleagues and partners. There is far less power, potential and opportunity when we are not united.  There is very little power, potential and opportunity for those who choose to look after only their own interests and choose to be islands unto themselves!

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Nielsen

Founder, National Institute for Healthcare Leadership

Cell 214-695-1292

1 Comment on "Healthcare Leadership: Physician relationships, from a Hospital CEO’s perspective"

  1. I like how you said, “the positives will completely overwhelm and overshadow the negatives”. I know that I have found that to be true in my personal life. It can certainly be true for everyone else as well.

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