From the Society

Brian Harte, MD, SFHM, Discusses Path from Hospitalist to Transformational Healthcare Leader


Brian Harte, MD, SFHM, longtime member of the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) and now president of its Board of Directors, was recently named president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General and the Southern Region. He previously served as president of Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, the 500-bed flagship for the Cleveland Clinic Health System.

Dr. Harte

Dr. Harte

The Hospitalist spoke with Dr. Harte about SHM’s impact on his career and how he sees hospitalists’ roles growing in an evolving health system.

Question: In your speech at Hospital Medicine 2016 in San Diego, you referenced the critical need for hospitalists to explore opportunities to grow both personally and professionally, with SHM as a means of support. How has SHM been that support for you throughout your career from hospitalist to hospitalist leader?

Answer: Hospital medicine is a fantastic career because there are so many opportunities available to us. SHM supports our members in finding their own career paths in a number of ways. For example, Leadership Academy is a valuable resource to develop leadership skills from basic to advanced. More generally, SHM provides many role models and networking opportunities to allow others to learn from hospital medicine professionals and healthcare leaders and help them advance their careers.

Q: Tell us a bit about your expanded role at Cleveland Clinic Health System and how you can leverage SHM as a way to accomplish your goals in this new position.

A: I’ve been at Cleveland Clinic for 12 years, both as a hospitalist and in a number of leadership positions. After having served as president of Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, I have a new role now as president of one of their newly acquired hospitals in Akron, Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital. Both are community hospitals within the Cleveland Clinic’s integrated healthcare network.

In my new role, I will be overseeing and facilitating the process of integration, and I’m really looking forward to it as a new challenge. I am particularly interested in how other health system and hospital executives who are hospitalists within SHM can help guide me and provide advice on how they have taken on challenges, built bridges, and overseen integration within other organizations.

Q: How does the career path of a hospitalist lend itself to leadership opportunities in a way that some other specialties may not?

A: Being a hospitalist lends itself to an almost limitless set of very interesting and rewarding career paths, both within and outside of pure clinical medicine. Hospitalists tend to have a very close relationship with administration, not just around clinical issues but around performance measurement and management. Because of this, we learn on the job about what leadership really consists of and that effective hospitalists are, by definition, effective leaders. What we do every day, functioning within and ultimately leading high-performing teams, epitomizes experiential leadership development.

SHM is positioned to help guide our members both in identifying their career paths and continuing to follow that path through events like Leadership Academy, Annual Meeting, and other networking opportunities that allow them to meet other hospitalists who have already walked down similar paths. We can help guide each other in terms of avoiding some of the pitfalls we have experienced but also by discovering opportunities and how to take advantage of them.

Q: Moving forward, how can hospitalists demonstrate the value that they add to the healthcare landscape both in practice and from a leadership perspective?

A: Since hospital medicine’s inception, hospitalists have had to show the value that they add to patient care, to hospitals, and to the healthcare system. As we move into an era of alternative payment models (APMs) and healthcare reform, the need to do that for all physicians will only be greater. Hospitalists are extremely well positioned to demonstrate value partly because we have been doing that all along in terms of improving patient care, quality outcomes, or performance measurements that the hospital is keeping track of.

We’re going to have to be stronger advocates for the value we provide to the healthcare system in terms of outcomes for patients as well as cost and efficiency. I know SHM will continue to help our members and the leaders within our membership develop the skills needed to do that.

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