Population Health Moves to the C-Suite

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)
Population Health Moves to the C-Suite

Add another acronym to your list — CPHO stands for chief population health officer, and you may be meeting one in the near future. According to Jim King, senior partner and chief quality officer at executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, CPHOs are going to be hot commodities as healthcare organizations work to better manage patient populations.

As you might imagine, CPHOs are charged with designing the population health strategy for their organizations and leading the physician network organizations. King, who was interviewed by Becker’s Hospital Review, notes that it’s unusual for a non-physician to hold the position. One reason is the importance of buy-in from the organization’s clinical staff. The effectiveness of the position depends on it, so King recommends making this a top focus. “It’s so important to make sure [the buy-in] is done on the front end, so once the search is finished, the new leaders can hit the ground running because key clinical workers already know what the role is,” he said.

Because it’s quite new, the role varies from organization to organization. In many cases, it involves establishing relationships with payers and community partners such as home care agencies. In all cases, the CPHO will have experience with team-based care, because accountable care models depend on a diverse group of clinicians coming together to provide coordinated care.

The CPHO’s position in the C-suite gives him or her a unique perspective on how that care will be delivered. King says CPHOs often work side by side with the chief clinical officer and the CFO to revamp payment methods. That’s one reason many CPHOs have an advanced degree like a master’s in business or health administration. They also may have public health experience and experience with influencing physician behavior from working in a large physician group.

Clearly, there is not a huge pool of physicians with these credentials, so hospitals and health systems may have to look far afield. Still, the ever-increasing emphasis on new healthcare delivery models means you’re likely to cross paths with a CPHO sooner rather than later.

And when you do, will you know how to clearly outline what your agency is doing to help improve outcomes?

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