Most board members at the nation’s top hospitals have no healthcare background: Study

Less than 15 percent of board members overseeing the nation’s top hospitals have a professional background in healthcare, while more than half have a background in finance or business services, according to a study published Feb. 8 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study’s authors represent Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They wrote that they sought to understand which professions are represented most among hospital boards because they may influence the organization’s goals and overall strategy — there also had been little research done around the topic previously.

The study began in July by examining the 20 top-rated hospitals by US News & World Report in 2022, which are all nonprofit academic medical centers in urban areas. 

Only 15 of the 20 facilities publish board information online, and IRS filings for the remaining were incomplete or outdated.

For the 15 hospitals that provide information on their board members, the authors sorted their professional backgrounds across 11 industry sectors using the North American Industry Classification System, which is the federal standard. For board members with healthcare backgrounds, they were further categorized as trained physicians, nurses, or other workers. 

Four key takeaways:

1. At the 15 examined hospitals, there were 567 board members. The study was able to sort 529 into professional categories.

2. Among the 529 board members, 44 percent had a background in finance. Among them, more than 80 percent led private equity funds, wealth management firms, or multinational banks. The remainder were in real estate (14.7 percent) or insurance (5.2 percent).

3. The second and third most common sectors were health services (16.4 percent) and professional and business services (12.6 percent).

4. Across the 15 hospitals, 14.6 percent of board members were healthcare professionals — primarily physicians (13.3 percent) and followed by nurses (0.9 percent).

The study noted that its findings may not represent all hospitals because it only studied the highest-ranked, and some of those hospitals do not publicly report information on their board members. The study also did not examine “the community ties of board members to gauge local accountability of board decisions.”

The authors also noted that they did not examine the racial and gender makeup of boards, which they said merits further review — in 2018, 42 percent of U.S. hospital boards had all-white members and 70 percent of members were male.

MetroHealth fires CEO over more than $1.9M in unreported bonuses

The board of trustees at Cleveland-based MetroHealth System has fired President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD.

Dr. Boutros was fired Nov. 21 after the board received findings of a probe into compensation issues involving more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses, Vanessa Whiting, chair of the board, said in a statement posted on the health system’s website. The probe found that between 2018 and 2022, Dr. Boutros authorized the compensation for himself, without disclosure to the board.

“We have taken these actions mindfully and deliberately but with sadness and disappointment,” Ms. Whiting said. “We all recognize the wonderful things Dr. Boutros has done for our hospital and for the community. However, we know of no organization permitting its CEO to self-evaluate and determine their entitlement to an additional bonus and at what amount, as Dr. Boutros has done.”

Dr. Boutros took the helm of MetroHealth in 2013. Last year, Dr. Boutros announced his plans to retire at the end of 2022. In September, MetroHealth named Airica Steed, EdD, RN, its next president and CEO. Dr. Steed, who is executive vice president and system COO of Sinai Chicago Health System, will take the helm of MetroHealth Dec. 5, according to Ms. Whiting’s statement. Meanwhile, Nabil Chehade, MD, executive vice president and chief clinical transformation officer at MetroHealth, will assume the CEO’s duties on an interim basis.

Ms. Whiting said MetroHealth discovered the compensation issues related to Dr. Boutros while preparing for the CEO transition, and an internal investigation took place, led by the Tucker Ellis law firm.

She said Dr. Boutros admitted to conducting self-assessments of his performance under specific metrics he established and authorizing payment to himself of more than $1.9 million in supplemental bonuses between 2018 and 2022.

According to Ms. Whiting, Dr. Boutros repaid more than $2.1 million in October, representing the supplemental bonus money paid without board approval for performance in calendar years 2017 through 2021, plus more than $124,000 in interest.

She said the board has also implemented immediate CEO spending and hiring limitations through Dec. 31, 2022, and Dr. Boutros has self-reported to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

MetroHealth’s internal investigation is ongoing.

Among Dr. Boutros’ accomplishments at MetroHealth were helping annual revenue increase from $785 million to more than $1.5 billion; growing the health system’s workforce from 6,200 to nearly 8,000 while seeing employee minimum wage increase to $15 per hour; and developing Ohio’s only Ebola treatment center.

Navigating a Post-Covid Path to the New Normal with Gist Healthcare CEO, Chas Roades

Covid-19, Regulatory Changes and Election Implications: An Inside ...Chas Roades (@ChasRoades) | Twitter

Healthcare is Hard: A Podcast for Insiders; June 11, 2020

Over the course of nearly 20 years as Chief Research Officer at The Advisory Board Company, Chas Roades became a trusted advisor for CEOs, leadership teams and boards of directors at health systems across the country. When The Advisory Board was acquired by Optum in 2017, Chas left the company with Chief Medical Officer, Lisa Bielamowicz. Together they founded Gist Healthcare, where they play a similar role, but take an even deeper and more focused look at the issues health systems are facing.

As Chas explains, Gist Healthcare has members from Allentown, Pennsylvania to Beverly Hills, California and everywhere in between. Most of the organizations Gist works with are regional health systems in the $2 to $5 billion range, where Chas and his colleagues become adjunct members of the executive team and board. In this role, Chas is typically hopscotching the country for in-person meetings and strategy sessions, but Covid-19 has brought many changes.

“Almost overnight, Chas went from in-depth sessions about long-term five-year strategy, to discussions about how health systems will make it through the next six weeks and after that, adapt to the new normal. He spoke to Keith Figlioli about many of the issues impacting these discussions including:

  • Corporate Governance. The decisions health systems will be forced to make over the next two to five years are staggeringly big, according to Chas. As a result, Gist is spending a lot of time thinking about governance right now and how to help health systems supercharge governance processes to lay a foundation for the making these difficult choices.
  • Health Systems Acting Like Systems. As health systems struggle to maintain revenue and margins, they’ll be forced to streamline operations in a way that finally takes advantage of system value. As providers consolidated in recent years, they successfully met the goal of gaining size and negotiating leverage, but paid much less attention to the harder part – controlling cost and creating value. That’s about to change. It will be a lasting impact of Covid-19, and an opportunity for innovators.
  • The Telehealth Land Grab. Providers have quickly ramped-up telehealth services as a necessity to survive during lockdowns. But as telehealth plays a larger role in the new standard of care, payers will not sit idly by and are preparing to double-down on their own virtual care capabilities. They’re looking to take over the virtual space and own the digital front door in an effort to gain coveted customer loyalty. Chas talks about how it would be foolish for providers to expect that payers will continue reimburse at high rates or at parity for physical visits.
  • The Battleground Over Physicians. This is the other area to watch as payers and providers clash over the hearts and minds of consumers. The years-long trend of physician practices being acquired and rolled-up into larger organizations will significantly accelerate due to Covid-19. The financial pain the pandemic has caused will force some practices out of business and many others looking for an exit. And as health systems deal with their own financial hardships, payers with deep pockets are the more likely suitor.”





Hospital Boards Seeing Low Turnover Rates, AHA Finds

Click to access aha-2019-governance-survey-report_v8-final.pdf

A survey of hospital and health system CEOs noted opportunities for improvement in board governance, alongside some positive trends.

The boards of trustees governing U.S. hospitals and health systems have relatively low turnover rates in an industry that’s shifting rapidly, according to a survey report released Wednesday by the American Hospital Association.

The survey asked more than 1,300 CEOs of nonfederal community hospitals and health systems in the U.S. about their organizations’ governance structures and practices, then the AHA compared their responses to data collected in a similar survey five years ago.

The researchers found that the policies and norms in place for most healthcare organizations result in low levels of board turnover.

The report cited several related opportunities for improvement:

  • Nearly a third of all respondents said their boards do not use term limits at all.
  • More than 75% of respondents said their organizations either didn’t replace board members during their terms or kept reappointing them (when eligible) within the past three years, rather than recruiting a fresh face.
  • Formal assessments were not conducted within the past three years for boards, board members, or chairpersons at 31% of respondent organizations.
  • Older board members are increasingly common. Overall, 12% of board members were age 71 or older in 2018, up from 9% in 2005, the report states. The percentage of members age 50 or younger was 22% last year, down from 29% in 2005.

Luanne R. Stout, president of Stout Associates based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and a retired Chief Governance Officer of Texas Health Resources, wrote in commentary included with the report that healthcare organizations have a number of options when trying to foster a healthy degree of board turnover.

“Term limits (usually three or four consecutive, three-year terms) are helpful in accomplishing board turnover; however, some boards are reluctant to adopt term limits for fear of losing highly valued board members,” Stout wrote. “Boards that annually review board member attendance, performance and contribution can achieve desired levels of rotation and competency enhancement without utilizing term limits.”

The AHA report also notes some positive trends around healthcare board governance, including the following:

  • There has been some increase in racial and ethnic diversity among board members. The survey found 58% of respondents had boards with at least one non-white member, up from 53% in 2014. (That means about 42% of boards were still composed last year entirely of white members.)
  • A majority of boards restructured to improve their governance.
  • Nearly half of all system boards include members from outside the communities served.

“This year’s survey demonstrates how hospitals and health system boards are rising to meet tomorrow’s challenges through redefining roles, responsibilities and board structures,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack in a statement. “These changes are not surprising given the continued transformation in where, how, when and from whom patients receive care.”