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What’s the Story on COVID and the Tenure of Hospital CEOs?

COVID-19 | 
Economics | 
Outcomes | 

The only reason I’m writing this blog post is so I can refer to it and link to it a year from now.

The lead of next year’s post will be something like “the mishandled response to the COVID-19 outbreak cost a lot of hospital CEOs their jobs” or “the need for steady leadership during the pandemic increased job security for hospital CEOS across the country” or “a deadly virus has no effect on hospital CEOs.”

Earlier this month, the American College of Healthcare Executives released its annual figures on hospital CEO turnover. You can download the latest data here.  

The ACHE said the hospital CEO turnover rate last year was 17 percent. That means 17 percent of the CEO positions at 4,438 nonfederal, short-term, general medical and surgical hospitals, turned over in 2019. The ACHE report does not say why the hospitals refilled those jobs.

That’s a slight drop from the 18 percent hospital CEO turnover rate that ACHE reported for the previous five years. In fact, the average annual turnover rate over the past decade is 17.6 percent.

The highest turnover rate occurred in 2013, when 20 percent of the top hospital jobs flipped. The lowest turnover rate happened in 1983 and 1990, when only 13 percent of the top hospital spots changed over.

So, what the ACHE reported earlier this month wasn’t exactly big news. Same old, same old. 

But, in the 39 years that the ACHE has been reporting hospital CEO turnover rates, there’s never been a global pandemic that’s killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S. 

From a clinical, financial and operational perspective, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on hospitals across the country has been a monumental once-in-a-century event. Patients died. Doctors, nurses and other frontline caregivers and staff died. Patient volume dropped. Patient revenue dropped. The supply chain failed. A coordinated public health response was nonexistent. 

Then, within six months, new clinical protocols started saving more patients. More and better personal protective equipment saved more doctors, nurses, frontline caregivers and staff. Patient volume came back. Patient revenue came back. Hospitals and health systems built new supply chains and networks to share COVID-19 data and best practices. Telehealth and other remote care models matured overnight.   

Hospital and health system CEOs lived an entire career in less than one year.

That’s why I’m curious to see how their performance and experience with the pandemic will affect the hospital CEO turnover rate in 2020, when the ACHE comes out with its numbers next year.

That’s the only reason I wrote this blog post.

Thanks for reading.

Stay home. Stay alive. Stay safe.

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About the 4sight Health Author
David Burda News Editor & Columnist

Dave is 4sight Health’s biggest news junkie, resident journalist and healthcare historian. He began covering healthcare in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. Dave writes his own column, “Burda on Health,” for us, contributes weekly blog posts, and manages our weekly e-newsletter and weekly podcast, 4sight Friday and 4sight Roundup. Dave believes that healthcare is a business like any other business, and customers—patients—are king. If you do what’s right for patients, good business results will follow. Follow Burda on Twitter @DavidRBurda and on LinkedIn.