C-Suite Magnificent 7

Sept. 28, 2023

During the last decade, healthcare provider organization C-suites have expanded with a variety of “new” titles that run parallel to several of the leading college football conferences that decline to change the numeral in their names to reflect the bloat. Case in point: The Big 10 likely will consist of 18 teams next season once the smoke clears.

Search the interwebs … or let AI do it for you and just take the credit (not the case here, rest assured) … and you’ll see the variety of nebulously nuanced functions occupying valuable real estate – like the crème filling in a popular sandwich cookie – between the “C” of Chief and “O” of Officer. 

Believe it or not, you can find more than 85 different combinations that can apply to the C-suite of any healthcare provider organization – particularly those that crave publicity for creativity. 

Can you imagine how top-heavy an organization would be – unless they employed enough people underneath to keep the organization busily afloat and humming – if it succumbed to the executive bloat? Of course, the post-pandemic labor shortages and staffing challenges likely would stuff a cork in that bottle anyway. 

Granted, a number of options could be regarded as synonyms, as they may share the same middle letter in the C-to-O equation and overlap in selected functionality. But are all those options really needed, particularly as healthcare provider organizations continue the quixotic quest of controlling, managing and reducing expenses? 

Many of the titles reflect the explosion in information technology capabilities. Think of it this way: Here in the 21st century, the computer represents the nucleus of one of those ball-and-stick molecular models used in organic chemistry where every new possibility is displayed through a new array. Think of it as a hub-and-spoke model on supplements that proves Thomas Dolby right – you can be blinded with science! 

Brushing aside the image of an organizational Chia pet, what if you could redesign and simplify the C-suite composition to reflect more of a bread-and-butter, meat-and-potatoes approach, eschewing the appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, desserts and petit fours of titles that have been added to the mix? What titles may comprise such an executive leadership team? 

For starters, the C-suite can be organized around three major form factors driving the success of healthcare organizations everywhere: Customer service, healing/organic restoration and safety/security. Notice that generating income is not specified – whether nonprofit, not-for-profit or investor-owned. Why? A breakdown in any of the three major factors essentially hampers income – particularly reimbursement designated as income on the balance sheet. 

To carry out the three major form factors, an organization should need no more than a team of seven. They are:

1.    CEO for Chief Executive Officer (oversees administration, HR, marketing/PR, engagement/experience, fundraising, etc.)

2.     CFO for Chief Financial Officer (oversees finance, accounting, billing, budgeting and insurance, revenues and expenses, etc.)

3.     CCO for Chief Clinical Officer (oversees all staffed and privileged clinicians, including doctors, surgeons, nurses and those in laboratory and imaging, etc.)

4.     CLO for Chief Legal Officer (oversees all legal matters, including compliance, governance, intellectual property, malpractice and diversity, equity and inclusion, etc.)

5.     CTO for Chief Technology Officer (oversees all technology operational issues, including IT, informatics, biomedical, cybersecurity, etc.)

6.     CQSO for Chief Quality and Safety Officer (oversees all quality and safety matters, such as clinical and environmental sterility, which encompasses environmental/facility services, infection prevention and sterile processing; energy management (electricity, gas and water), recycling and sustainability, etc.)

7.     CPO for Chief Procurement Officer (oversees sourcing, contracting, distribution, inventory, logistics, mailroom/print shop, resource utilization, value management, etc.) 

What’s notably missing? COO for Chief Operating Officer. While the responsibilities for Nos. 5-7 may generally fall under the COO, and selectively the CIO, a healthcare provider organization may want to promote technology, quality, safety and procurement as standalone assets and attributes to reassure the community that it embraces their inherent value for population health.        

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