9 C-Level Titles Unique to Healthcare

9 C-Level Titles Unique to Healthcare

An industry that’s as unique as healthcare is bound to have some equally unique executive roles. Here are nine C-level titles that are either specific to healthcare or got their start in healthcare.

An industry as large and complex as healthcare lends itself to job titles that you won't find in any other industry. That's why healthcare organizations increasingly find value in creating executive roles to oversee a bevy of challenges, from analyzing terabytes of electronic health records (EHR) to helping patients make healthier decisions to adapting to new business models.

Here are nine executive titles that are unique to, or inspired by, the healthcare industry. (Thanks to Stephanie Fraser of CHIME for offering some suggestions.)

Chief Medical Officer

If you enter a hospital and ask to speak to the CMO, expect to talk about medicine, not marketing. The chief medical officer oversees a facility's care delivery and represents physicians within the administration. This means keeping a close eye on safety and quality standards and, increasingly, exploring ways to promote coordinated, patient-centered care. The CMO role also leads compliance, ethics, physician recruitment, performance benchmarking and both clinical and business planning efforts. (Note: In many countries, such as Great Britain and Ireland, the term Chief Medical Officer refers to the top doctor in the land – the equivalent of the U.S. Surgeon General.)

Chief Clinical Officer

If the chief medical officer represents physicians, then the chief clinical officer represents just about everyone else – primarily the nursing staff but also volunteer services, the pharmacy and other operations that contribute to care coordination. This breadth of oversight means CCOs often play a role in implementing and optimizing clinical applications such as EHR systems.

It's worth noting that CMO and CCO job descriptions overlap quite a bit. That's partly because small organizations tend to have one or the other, but not both, and partly because evolving business models aim to assign all caregivers a role in improving patient outcomes. In that sense, executives representing medical staff, regardless of title, tend to share goals and responsibilities.

Chief Population Health Officer

The chief population health officer helps organizations seeking a strategic edge in population health management – an area of increasing importance as healthcare endures its shift to accountable, collaborative care. As this shift uproots the traditional fee-for-service healthcare model, the CPHO should work with the CCO/CMO and CFO to ease the transition to a pay-for-performance – and to ease the pains of physicians whose world is turning upside down. Moreover, since collaborative care emphasizes wellness, which doesn't stop at a hospital exit, this executive may partner with payers and community organizations to build wellness initiatives. (That suggests a need for business and administrative acumen on top of medical expertise.)

Chief Patient Experience Officer

Even if "patient" is missing from the title, and it's just "chief experience officer," the goal is the same – to improve as many interactions between a patient and healthcare workers as possible. Care itself represents but one piece of the patient experience puzzle. There's also education, customer service and hospitality – functioning TVs, comfortable chairs, friendly staff, valet parking, good food, free Wi-Fi and a host of other amenities. Some facilities go so far that visitors can't help but wonder, "Is it a hospital or a hotel?" It's marketing, yes, but also a response to the Affordable Care Act and to Medicare, which tie certain reimbursements and measure accountable care progress, respectively, to patient experience metrics.

Chief Patient Engagement Officer

For the healthcare part of the overall patient experience, many facilities turn to a chief patient engagement officer. (Here, again, the title may lack the word "patient.") People interact with healthcare systems differently based on age, level of health, tech prowess and a host of other factors, so getting patient engagement right can be tricky. Doing it right requires a blend of UX design (for websites, portals and apps), behavioral science (to provide proper incentives for successful interactions), population segmentation (for more targeted messaging), analytics (to measure progress) and continuous improvement (to adjust initiatives accordingly). It's certainly a challenge, but better patient engagement often leads to better overall care.

Chief Wellness Officer

This title pops up in industries such as higher education, and it isn't always clinical, but the role of chief wellness officer can trace its roots to healthcare. The concept: Encourage employees, their families, the community at large and, of course, patients to eat well, exercise, reduce stress and take a proactive, preventive approach to health throughout their lives. (Because even if the local hospital looks like a hotel, it's still a hospital.) Social media plays an increasingly important role in promoting wellness. Prudent facilities use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to share tips and other educational resources, often with a timely twist – holiday season eating advice, for example, or "beat the heat" tips when the mercury rises.

Chief Incentive Officer

The chief incentive officer helps identify the types of incentives that trigger behavior change that improve health management that reduce healthcare costs. The role requires knowing what behavior an organization seeks to change, what it will cost the organization to change it, what incentives will drive change (cash and/or lower prices usually works), what is an acceptable response rate and what else must change in tandem (such as the cafeteria menu or the condition of the sidewalks). Long-term success requires a strategic approach and embracing a culture of wellness. This role has been exported to other industries, too, as companies look to promote healthy habits with the aim of reducing healthcare costs.

Chief Accountable Care Officer

Disruptions to the traditional care model are so, well, disruptive that some organizations have hired a chief accountable care officer to spearhead the transition to the accountable care model. This role puts common population health tasks – such as risk management, chronic care management and readmission reduction – into the context of more integrated, coordinated and sometimes even home-based care. (Not surprisingly, you may thus see this title as "chief integration officer.") This role touches IT, as coordinated care can't succeed if members of patient care teams can't share data. With all the collaboration necessary to do that, experience herding cats will help anyone filling this role.  

Chief ______ Informatics Officer

You can fill in the blank with "medical," "nursing" or "clinical" – or nothing at all. In any case, this role spearheads the analysis of a healthcare organization's terabytes of patient data. These analyses take on many forms – "global" initiatives such as improving population health management (identifying which treatments methods most effectively address a certain condition) or reducing hospitals readmissions (discovering who's most likely to return and supplementing discharge plans accordingly), as well as "local" projects pointed at individual patients. Oh, and don't forget cutting costs and improving efficiency.

[ Feature: How to Do Big Data in Healthcare ]

[ More: Analytics Use Cases for Healthcare IT, Part 1 and Part 2 ]

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