Sep 19, 2018
Is it possible to get a job as CMO in a year?
Well, it depends. It’s certainly easier if the organization
you’re working for is looking for a CMO. Or if you’re in a large
city with multiple hospitals, MCOs and large medical groups.
What do you need to do to get that job as soon as possible, even
if you have limited management and leadership experience?
Well, let me be your mentor and show you how it might be
Let’s start with the end in mind. What skill sets will a CMO
candidate need to demonstrate so that an employer will...
- read a cover letter and resume,
- set up a series of interviews and,
- select you as the new CMO?
If you’ve graduated medical school, completed a residency and
worked clinically for a few years, you already have many of the
necessary leadership skills.
But you’ll need to work on those additional business and
management skills that will enable you to work in a corporate
I break down those skills into five general areas that a health
care organization will generally be looking for:
- Data Management
- Financial Management
- Business Practices
- Leadership Skills
- Talent Management
So, let’s break those 5 skill sets down into how they’re learned
and demonstrated on your resume.
Management. In this arena you should be able to demonstrate
the ability to analyze a variety of data, simplify and explain it
to others, and create action plans to address underperformance. The
type of data typically analyzed includes quality and patient safety
metrics, utilization review, including length of stay and resource
utilization, patient and physician satisfaction data, and process
measures, such as turnaround times. You should also be able to
design balanced scorecards and dashboards, understand Lean Process
Improvement and Six Sigma principles, and prepare for accreditation
You may already have experience reviewing your own, and possibly
others’, quality data. But to fully demonstrate this skill set, you
can consider taking the following steps.
- Take a course on quality reporting. These are available through
the National Association for Healthcare Quality and the AAPL.
- Participate in committees that review data: QI Committees, and
UM Committees. These committees can be at your medical group,
hospital staff, or at nonprofit organizations you might join as a
volunteer. I’m on the board of a hospice and chair of the quality
committee. Other nonprofit healthcare organizations have boards and
many have quality committees.
- Seek a position as a part time medical director for quality,
utilization management, or clinical documentation improvement. All
of them collect and analyze data. Chat with the director of the
department that manages those activities to see if they need part
time assistance with analyzing and presenting reports based on
their collected data.
- Become certified in Lean Process Improvement or Six Sigma. Some
courses can be completed in as little as 8 weeks.
- Volunteer to help prepare for the next accreditation survey of
your ambulatory surgical center, hospital, or wound
Management. This includes understanding health system
financial reports, departmental revenues and expenses, and creating
an annual budget and managing to it. One of the biggest concepts
here is to understand accrual accounting. There are other unique
issues related to health care finances, such as gross vs. net
revenues, income adjustments, and bad debt that must be
To gain experience, you can do the following.
- Review your own personal financial and productivity reports
from your medical group. Volunteer to work part-time as medical
advisor or medical director to present and explain reports to other
physicians in the group.
- Find a nonprofit that has Finance Committee. The hospice I
spoke about earlier has a Finance Committee, and members review
monthly income and expense statements, balance sheets and other
financial documents. If possible, chair the committee. This forces
you to be understand the financial reports more thoroughly.
Hospitals also have boards and finance committees that need members
- Take a health care finances class through the AAPL or ACHE. Or
take a course through a local community college in accounting to
become more familiar with common accounting terminology and
Practices. These include running effective meetings, writing
reports, preparing and delivering presentations, identifying and
writing management goals, and project planning.
You can learn some of these skills in the following ways.
- Take business and management courses through the AAPL, ACHE and
- Participate in service line committees such as those for a
wound center, ICU, CCU, observation unit, occupational medicine
clinic, spine center, vascular center, family planning clinic, STD
clinic, and other inpatient units and outpatient service lines.
Then participate in or chair planning committee meetings, strategic
planning meetings, and marketing meetings for any such
- Volunteer for the CME planning committee at your hospital. If
there isn’t one, locate national educational organizations in your
area by searching the list of accredited providers on the ACCME at
accme.org. Work hard to become the chair of the CME committee, if
Skills. In order to effectively lead a division that
includes multiple departments, you will need experience in
negotiation; healthcare law, (including contracting, Medicare fraud
and abuse, credentialing and privileging, and risk management);
team building and coaching skills; strategic planning, and working
effectively in an executive team.
You can acquire these skills in the following ways.
- Take courses on health care law through the AAPL, ACHE or local
universities in your area.
- Read up about SWOT (S. W. O. T.) analysis and take a committee
or a department through one as medical director for any service
line or medical group department, or your own medical
- Use the SWOT Analysis to develop an action plan and set of
SMART goals at the beginning of each year and follow up with
progress and completing of the goals at the end of the year.
- Participate in as many boards, committees and teams as
possible, and chair as many as you can, and keep track of each
one’s accomplishments for your resume.
Management. This goes beyond simply hiring, firing and
supervising employees. A seasoned CMO will need to know how to
attract and recruit good managers and directors, maintain
accountability, build loyalty, develop future leaders, communicate
with clarity, delegate appropriately, create succession plans, and
This is the most difficult of the five major areas to get
experience in, unless you have staff directly reporting to you.
Most medical groups involve physicians by having them attend and
chair meetings. But physicians often do not have direct line
responsibility for employees.
You might not be able to get real life experience in this aspect
of management skills until you’re at least part time in management
as medical director, or department director or an equivalent
There are some things you can do, however.
- If you’re already working as a medical director, try to get the
department restructured in such a way as to have staff report
directly to you. You’ll need to take on the responsibility of
meeting individually with direct reports, providing direction, and
completing evaluations. But it’s the only way to truly learn how to
do these activities.
- You can start by taking these roles on in your practice. Become
the managing partner, if you’re in a small to medium group, and
actively manage supervisors and managers to gain this valuable
By following these suggestions, you will be able to demonstrate
the skills to be a successful CMO, and land a high-paying and
fullfilling job as a physician executive and leader.
For the show notes, go to vitalpe.net/episode052
I've also developed a paid mentoring
program in which I assess your current skills,
identify gaps in each of the 5 domains, and help you to obtain new
skills through part-time paid and volunteer experiences.
To find out more about this program, go to Become CMO in a Year