Episode Overview:

Every day, physicians take on new leadership roles, which presents both opportunities and challenges – especially in the area of business acumen. As industry leaders, we are faced with the question, “How do we help physicians become better leaders?”

In this episode of Value-Based Care Insights, Daniel J. Marino speaks with Debra Levinthal, Executive Director of IPMA (Interstate Postgraduate Medical Association) about how she has supported physician leaders throughout her career and in her current role. Debra shares tips for physician leaders to be more effective through training, development and coaching.

This is the first episode in a two-part series supporting the Virtual CME Conference sponsored by IPMA Ascent and Lumina Leadership Institute, taking place October 14, 2021.


Daniel J. Marino
Daniel J. Marino, Managing Partner, Lumina Health Partners



Debra Levinthal, DPM, Executive Director, Interstate Postgraduate Medical Association - IPMA

Episode Discussion Areas:

1. As we see more physicians take on new roles, many struggle with business acumen or leadership roles. What has IPMA done to help with that?

  1. IPMA has been in this space for a number of years. With a physician-led board, IPMA recognizes what success looks like in modern health care. They realized they could make an impact on the future of health care by sharing their experiences – and they wanted to pave the way for other physicians leaders to have an easier transition.
  2. IPMA knows from experience that developing strong chief medical officers (CMOs) who have an understanding of how to make a health care system thrive clinically and operationally keeps its community healthy.

2. As a professor, Dr. Levinthal asks, “What was the best evidence-based care to render? How do we get paid for that?

  1. Forced changed in mindset;  value is found in outcomes.
  2. Must have strong clinical and business knowledge.
  3. Clinical outcomes are demanding and must find a balance between clinical and business.
  4. Doctors should be happy and productive in their job | happier doctors = better outcomes.

3. What are the biggest areas of development that can help physicians become proficient business leaders?

  1. Physicians should start with an honest look at themselves, their personalities, and how well they work with others.
  2. It’s also helpful for them to know where they get stressed or triggered. These factors are important in business where human dynamics come into play.
  3. Their business acumen and interpersonal communications development will definitely help them interact more effectively with patients – the most important team member.

4. What business skills do physicians need to develop and how do administrative leaders factor in the picture?

  1. Physicians need to develop a number of skills – from motivating teams to understanding change management to having the emotional intelligence to read the room.
  2. Physicians should know how to build a budget and be able to contribute to managed care contract negotiations – they should also be able to glean valuable insight about the health of their organization from financial reports.
  3. Communication skills are essential for conflict resolution – something business leaders deal with often.
  4. Often, physicians are silent when they don’t know something. They need to make a habit of admitting what they don’t know and seek out information – the success of their team and organization depends on it.
  5. Dyad partnerships where physicians collaborate with administrators who understand the business side of health care can be quite helpful.
  6. The dyad leadership model works well as long as clinical and administrative leaders trust and complement each other – and they understand and advocate for each other.

5. What can attendees expect from IPMA/Lumina event on October 14?

  1. “Leading for Results: Building a Collaborative Leadership Model” will give physicians and executives the tools they need to lead change and realize exceptional performance in their health care organization.
  2. The focus of this CME conference is on developing the leadership skills required to execute plans in today’s complex health care environment and bridge the gap between organizational strategy and real-world results.
  3. The event will feature physician leaders providing their own hard-won wisdom about the transition from a clinical to an administration role.  These are the people who’ve walked that path and can share the tools they picked up along the way.
  4. Attendees will walk away with knowledge they can apply immediately in their career, to their team, or within their organization.

Leading For Results CTA

6. Any last pieces of advice for physician leaders?

  1. Physicians need to do less talking and more listening. And they should listen beyond that. It’s fine to ask a question, but be more focused on the answer. Ask questions to learn more, by listening.
  2. Physicians must accept that what they know isn’t enough to succeed as a business leader. They need to approach this transition as if they’re back in school taking exams - and evaluate what they need to study most – that’s where a mentor can add the most value. From there, they need to spend time learning, training and again, listening.

Quote:  Debra Levinthal, DPM4 Key Takeaways: Required Skills for Physician Leaders

  1. Physicians who excel in their specialty can easily assume they will naturally excel in business, but there is a difference between clinical and administrative leadership.
    Physicians need to remember that their medical training didn’t prepare them for business leadership. And because they’ve already mastered the rigor of clinical excellence, they can grow into successful leaders with training and development.
  2. One of the most important skills that physicians can develop for business leadership is communication.
    Physicians are used to communicating in a directive style. They may have experience with difficult medical-related conversations, but the dynamic is different with an employee or a service line head. Those conversations must be more constructive and more empathic, with a focus on shared understanding.
  3. While physicians are accustomed to being the authority in their specialties, they will be better served in business to lean on mentors for guidance.
    The feedback loop that a mentor provides gives physician leaders a sense of humility and grace in making the necessary adjustments for success. Having a mentor provide offer alternative ways to approach a conflict, project, or issue can provide tremendous insight and real-time learning.
  4. Dyad models depend on common language.
    Physicians speak in different terms than administrators, but they are still talking about the same concepts. A successful dyad model will have shared language to describe goals and objectives, as well as the concepts involved. This means less jargon and more commonly understood terminology.

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About Value-Based Care Insights Podcast

Value-Based Care Insights is a podcast that explores how to optimize the performance of programs to meet the demands of an increasing value-based care payment environment. Hosted by Dan Marino, the VBCI podcast highlights recognized experts in the field and within Lumina Health Partners.

Daniel J. Marino

Podcast episode by Daniel J. Marino

Daniel specializes in shaping strategic initiatives for health care organizations and senior health care leaders in key areas that include population health management, clinical integration, physician alignment, and health information technology.