Challenges for Healthcare Leadership Boards

For decades, healthcare has been a difficult and highly regulated industry. In the past, it was possible for senior executives and the boards that supervise them to rely on a sector that has stability and predictability.

However, that has changed with the abrupt change in reimbursement and changes in patient safety and quality standards, which are reshaping how healthcare organizations operate to remain competitive. These shifts have brought new challenges for healthcare leadership boards.

In the course of this study, we spoke with opinion leaders who cited three kinds of behaviors of healthcare boards that they believed to be especially important:

A strong board should insist that the right information is made available. It should emphasize the importance of safety and quality goals, and provide trustees with meaningful targets. This requires using National Quality Forum-endorsed measures and creating a robust benchmarking strategy which identifies the top performers and identifies the methods they employ. The goal is to empower trustees to challenge every hospital and system to improve their quality and reduce medical errors.

The board should also seek out trustees with expertise in safety and quality research (e.g. high reliability, Six Sigma), to serve as members and chair of the board’s 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 who can guide the CEO and other staff in establishing and achieving appropriate targets and making sure that the healthcare leadership is doing everything it can to enhance performance.