May 102011

Physician Leader vs. Physician Clinician

Physician Leader: By Dr. Michael G. Cassatly, posted at Training

The transition in healthcare from a fee-for-service payment model to one based on value-based-purchasing is driving the concurrent transition of physicians from clinicians to physician leaders.  Just as there are fundamental differences between the two payment models, there are stark foundational contrasts between physician clinicians and leaders.  Adding to the physician’s burden, they very often must fulfill both roles simultaneously.  Let’s examine the differences between the two physician roles and then, look at how to help physicians successfully make the transition.

Examination of chart #1 reveals the characteristics of the two physician types to be the exact opposite of one another.  For instance, a clinical physician is autonomous, with a reactive doer philosophy; resulting in immediate outcomes from his or her actions, often with instant gratification from the patient.   In contrast, the physician leader is collaborative, with a proactive philosophy; having to wait months to witness the results of his or her actions, often with shared or no acknowledged gratification.

Chart #1:  Physician Clinician vs. Physician Leader

An effective Physician Leadership Development Program (PLDP) will guide physicians on a path of self-realization allowing them to change effortlessly back and forth from a clinician to a leader.   Three basic principles are common to all successful PLDP: development of physician self-awareness, emotional intelligence and effective leadership communication skills.  Development of self-awareness is accomplishment by administering a personality assessment allowing the physician to observe how they assimilate, process and communicate information.  When performed in a group setting with an intact healthcare team, the participants not only learn about one another’s different styles, but gain the added bonus of improved team communication. While emergence of emotional intelligence is enhanced by a discussion of personality assessments, I have found case studies with group discussion to be extremely useful in raising emotional IQ.  Lastly, even though most physicians are effective at communicating one-on-one with their patients, communicating as a team leader is often not a physician’s strong suit.  Here again, educating physicians to the differences in a clinical versus a leader physician, illustrative case studies of successful leaders and role playing are very helpful.  Fortunately, physicians are adept at assimilating and adapting new knowledge.   Coupled with a solid PLDP, most succeed in adding leadership qualities to their repertoire.

About the Author

Dr. Michael G. Cassatly

Dr. Michael G. Cassatly, is a Certified Business Coach, a Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and President of MedAchieve; providing business coaching solutions for the healthcare sector. His unique qualities of an intuitive business acumen and over twenty-five years of clinical experience in both the public and private health sectors provides a one-of-a-kind connection to client physicians. Dr. Cassatly’s business coaching of physicians improves their communication, relationship building and interpersonal skills with patients, healthcare team co-workers and physician colleagues. His results benefits patients, healthcare team co-workers and physicians. Clients include healthcare organizations and physicians throughout the US.  Michael has been published in the Journal of Medical Practice Management, Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Coaching World, International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, The Hospitalist and the Journal of the American Dental Association. Michael is President of MedAchieve, and affiliated with The Pyramid Resource Group, a corporate coaching company and creator of the Team Advantage. He serves as an Expert Witness for the Florida Department of Health, is a patent holder of the E-Z Arch Bar, Board Member of The Mama Ada Foundation, and Founding Board Member of The Family Legacy Trust Company. You can contact Michael at and visit the MedAchieve web site at


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physician leader, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC