Healthcare organization decision-makers often struggle with the question of whether or not to bring in an interim executive (often referred to in more general terms as an interim manager). One of the major barriers to this decision is cost.
This concern about cost makes sense, particularly if management views an interim as nothing more than a warm body to serve as a placeholder during the search for a permanent executive.
However, if you bring in the right interim manager—a seasoned executive with a proven record of improving performance and driving change—the benefits of engaging an interim manager can far outweigh the costs involved. In fact, the right interim executive can provide a return on investment that exceeds the associated fees and expenses several times over.
When to Engage an Interim Manager—and Why
In an article from California HealthCare News, author Don Whiteside lists five reasons that organizations usually hire interim executives:
They need specialized expertise for a temporary situation.
They need to fill a role or roles vacated due to expected or sudden departures.
They need to determine whether re-organization is necessary.
They need back-up support and expertise for difficult tasks.
They need an experienced executive to help handle the excess workload for a time.
An experienced interim can meet all five of these needs simultaneously—and that’s only the beginning of what the best interim managers can do. Here are a few ways an interim manager can bring peace of mind to you, the hospital board, and the physician group as you transition between permanent executives and deal with other critical organizational needs.
Forward Momentum and Growth
Let’s face it: Change is difficult, and managing that change is paramount. A successful interim manager recognizes this and quickly assimilates into a group’s culture so she can more effectively assist the physician healthcare network in moving forward and obtaining strategic goals for the organization. As part of her role, she might assist in developing the governing structure for the physician group, identify development needs within the team, assist in optimizing revenue cycle management, and improve processes and performance, all while continuing to maintain focus on strategic goals.
Objective, Big-Picture Perspective
One of the many benefits of engaging an interim is gaining a qualified and objective opinion of the organization. This objectivity not only allows the interim to manage the day-to-day operations but also gives him the opportunity to facilitate performance improvement in areas that may or may not have already been identified. An interim’s prior experience in other markets enables him to see the big picture, develop strategy, and drive collaboration across departments. Importantly, a seasoned interim manager can provide valuable input regarding best practices and processes that physician groups in markets across the country have implemented with success.
Preparation for Incoming Permanent Executive
Perhaps the greatest benefit to hiring an interim during times of transition is that the interim manager lays the groundwork—or, you might say, builds a bridge—for the permanent replacement. The period of recruitment is a critical time for ensuring that all staff and providers alike are ready for the permanent replacement and that the physician group is headed in the right direction. This block of time allows the interim to identify the current obstacles the organization is facing and determine the course as needed.
The right interim executive leaves an assignment feeling as though she has handed the organization a gift, neatly wrapped, complete with a big, red bow. Providers and staff are on board, strategic initiatives are outlined, a plan is in place, and momentum has been established to keep that plan moving forward. The new executive simply has to step in and take over. That gift of a smooth transition will prove valuable to the organization long after the interim manager’s work is done.