News from Cass Business School

The best hospitals are run by physicians

New research suggests top performing hospitals are typically those headed by a medical doctor rather than a manager

New research by Dr Amanda Goodall, Visiting Fellow at Cass Business School and Senior Research Associate at the IZA Institute, Bonn, suggests that better performing hospitals are those with a medical doctor in charge as opposed to a manager.

The study considered 300 of the most prominent hospitals in the US and constructed a detailed database tracing the professional background and personal history of each leader. The research focused particularly on hospital performance in the fields of cancer, digestive disorders and heart surgery. The research, to be published in the elite journal Social Science and Medicine, is the first of its kind.

Its conclusions run counter to a modern trend across the western world to put generally trained managers - not those with a medical degree - at the helm of hospitals.

The trend of having a manager in charge as opposed to a medical professional was questioned by the Darzi Report, commissioned by the UK National Health Service and released in 2008, but until now there has been no clear research on the topic.

Dr Goodall says "Over the last few decades there has been a growing tendency for hospital boards to appoint managers as CEO's. These findings raise some warning signs over that trend."

She continues "I was surprised by the strength of the pattern. It seems that age-old conventions about having doctors in charge - currently an idea that is out of favour around the world - may turn out to have been right all along".

Barry Silbaugh M.D, CEO of the American College of Physician Executives, commented "We are watching Dr Goodall's research carefully because it seems to finally provide a real evidence base for physician leadership. This is something we have long supported".

Goodall stressed that more research is needed and plans to undertake a UK based study in the near future.

View Amanda Goodall's website and read the full report.

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