Healthcare Leadership

Blog post by Justin Smith MD. Introduction by Colin Hung.

This week on #hcldr we have yet another amazing guest host – Justin Smith MD @TheDocSmitty. Dr. Smith is a pediatrician, the Medical Advisor for Digital Health and the Director of Primary Care Innovation for Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and is very active on Twitter. He writes weekly for Cook Children’s Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” opened this year in Trophy Club, TX. The clinic integrates multiple technologies that deepen his relationship with patients, improve convenience for parents and aid in providing efficient care to children and their families.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Smith in person earlier this year at #HITMC17 in Las Vegas. He was a panelist and I ran up to meet him after the session ended. He is as friendly and knowledgeable in-person as he is online.

The topic Dr. Smith has chosen for us is near and dear to our hearts – healthcare leadership – specifically clinical leadership that is needed to affect real change and to prevent burnout. It’s a meaty topic and having Dr. Smith lead us in the discussion will provide us with a truly unique “insider” perspective. I’m looking forward to next week’s chat on Tuesday September 19th at 8:30pm ET.

Healthcare workers are burning out at rapid rates.

Regulatory changes, administrative burdens and the implementation of not-so-easy-to-use technology are just some of the factors. But, each of these factors point back towards a common theme: change. More specifically, change that was forced upon healthcare providers from an external source. When healthcare providers do not have a seat at the decision-making table, a feeling of powerlessness over their day-to-day life settles in. I believe it is this lack of empowerment that is a key factor that leads to burnout.

Most healthcare providers are creative people who have entered the space with a desire to help people. During the course of their work, they see problems that they want to fix but they often have their hands tied by policies and procedures which limit their ability to affect real change. On top of that, their clinical training often does not prepare them to tackle the operational and interpersonal challenges of driving change in a large organization.

Fortunately, clinical training is broadening to include other skills that help providers appreciate how they fit into the bigger overall picture. Trainees are learning to engage with others from business, legal, information technology and other clinical disciplines in ways that help them implement change.

However, that still leaves generations of providers. already out in the workforce who do not have formal training in leadership. The paradox is that these same providers, who have been working for many years, are the ones at increased risk of burnout. They have the experience and expertise that lead to ideas which might significantly improve their patient’s lives (or the entire healthcare ecosystem) but they don’t feel empowered to affect those changes in an increasingly complex healthcare system.

Training for leadership could take on multiple forms including: self-study, online communities (like #hcldr), remote coursework or in-person classes are all ways healthcare providers can receive leadership training. Is there a method that is better than the others?

Join me this week on the #hcldr tweetchat, Tuesday September 19th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) as we talk about leadership in healthcare and how we can help our clinical staff learn the skills and language necessary to be competent, effective healthcare leaders.

  • T1 What skills are necessary for a good leader in healthcare?
  • T2 What skills are missing in the training of healthcare staff? How might we fill those gaps?
  • T3 How can a healthcare system ensure their clinical leaders are set up for success?
  • T4 What will healthcare leaders of the future look like/what skills will they need?


“I’m a Doctor and I Love My Job”, Justin Smith, LinkedIn, 10 May 2016,, accessed 13 September 2017

“Recognizing and Addressing Physician Burnout”, Justin Smith MD and Carl Tapia MD, Texas Pediatric Society,, accessed 13 September 2017

“Are EMRs to Blame for Physician Burnout?”, Steven Strongwater MD and Thomas H Less MD, NEJM Catalyst, 24 October 2016,, accessed 13 September 2017

“Physician Burnout: Its Origin, Symptoms, and Five Main Causes”, Dike Drummond MD, Family Practice Management, September 2015,, accessed 13 September 2017

“Report reveals severity of burnout by specialty”, Tory Parks, American Medical Association, 31 January 2017,, accessed 13 September 2017

“For the Young Doctor About to Burn Out”, Richard Gunderman, The Atlantic, 21 February 2014,, accessed 13 September 2017

“Perspectives on clinical leadership: a qualitative study exploring the views of senior healthcare leaders in the UK”, Edward D Nicol et al, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, July 2014,, accessed 13 September 2017

“New Physicians Will Need Business School Skills”, Robert Pearl MD and Alexander L Fogel, NEJM Catalyst, 7 August 2017,, accessed 13 September 2017

“What is deterring doctors from management roles?”, Matthew Limb, BMJ Careers, 15 April 2014,, accessed 13 September 2017

“When Clinicians Lead”, James Mountford and Caroline Webb, McKinsey & Company, February 2009,, accessed 13 September 2017

“A landscape analysis of leadership training in postgraduate medical education training programs at the University of Ottawa”, Marlon Danilewitz and Laurie McLean, October 2016, Canadian Medical Education Journal,, accessed 13 September 2017

Image Credit

Leader – Rvs1966

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