C-Suite Shakeup

Female CEOs lead the way in patient-centered hospital management

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Dr. Geoff Silvera, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science (Health Services Administration Program), recently co-authored a paper about the influence of chief executive officers on patient care experiences, and it turns out that patients benefitted most where women were the chief executive officers.

The article, "Women at the helm: Chief executive officer gender and patient experience in the hospital industry," was published in Health Care Management Review.

As a health care management scholar, Silvera conducts research on the ability of executives, especially chief executive officers, to positively influence care quality, patient experience and patient safety, as well as the influence of management on those outcomes. Silvera said research in those areas tends to focus on the influence of frontline clinicians, typically either nurses or physicians.

“In my experience as both an administrator and as a patient, so much of the experience and outcome is influenced directly by management. ‘How much time do I have with the patient, what resources do I have available?’ All those things are management decisions. And so, that's where my focus is looking at the link between management and patient outcomes.”

Silvera’s research found evidence that female CEOs improve the interpersonal care experience faster than male CEOs, particularly in the most complex executive job environments, that is, in the most populous urban environments, and in the largest hospital facilities.

“Our results not only support the notion that executives tend to rely on personal values and preferences but also that women have an apparent propensity for transforming health care organizations in the direction of patient centeredness, particularly in the most demanding circumstances,” Silvera states in the article.

The practical implications, according to Silvera, are that hospital boards seeking to improve the patient experience should give careful attention to promoting women to the role of CEO and consider how their own policies may be constraining both the promotion of female executives and the creation of more patient-centered health care organizations.

“We need more female CEOs. That would be the first implication. In health care specifically, we know now we're trying to build a patient-centered health care system. That's been a goal for going on two decades now. And this finding shows that female CEOs improve patient experiences. So we need more female hospital CEOs if we want to have a patient-centered health care system,” Silvera said.

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