The Evolving C-Suite
By Christina Thielst, LFACHE

The C-Suite is a popular term describing executive-level officers within a hospital or large clinic. The term originates  from the days when executives often occupied a suite of offices within a hospital or clinic including the chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), chief medical officer (CMO) and chief nursing officer (CNO).

Learn more about our healthcare degreesLearn more about our Healthcare DegreesThe C-Suite continues to evolve due to  changing expectations and industry transformations. The increasing adoption of information technologies has led to the creation of chief information officers (CIO). New payment models that reward patient satisfaction have resulted in chief experience officers (CXO) and the shift to an emphasis on preventative care and chronic disease management have resulted in the creation of chief population health officers (CPHO).

C-level executives may need to meet specific educational requirements depending on their focus, but a common expectation for these positions require a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in healthcare management or a bachelor’s in healthcare administration.

C-level executives may need to meet specific educational requirements depending on their focus...

Chief Executive and Operating Officers

For healthcare administrators with a master’s, these two positions are usually the highest level to reach within that career path. CEOs and COOs are responsible for day-to-day management of the organization and for establishing long and short term plans.

  • Chief Financial Officer

    This position is responsible for the financial affairs of the hospital, clinic or system. CFOs that can broaden their skills and knowledge outside of finance and accounting may also be successful advancing to COO and CEO roles.

  • Chief Medical Officer

    At a minimum, this position requires a medical degree due to the clinical nature of the role, but the increasing complexity of the healthcare delivery system has led some organizations to also require education in health or business administration.

  • Chief Nursing Officer

    At a minimum, this position requires a degree and competence in nursing. While a master’s in nursing is a popular choice for nurse executives, some prefer a health or business administration degree to broaden their knowledge and complement their clinical education.

  • Chief Information Officer

    Like the CNO and CMO, a technical degree in information technology is a minimum requirement.  However, a CIO may also want to pursue a master’s in health or business administration to broaden their skill set.

There are a variety of new chiefs in the C-Suite as well. This presents an expansion in opportunities for those who have pursued a traditional health administration career path as well as those from outside of the healthcare industry or in non-traditional fields. These emerging positions include:

  • Chief Innovation Officer

    CINOs are creative individuals who can think beyond traditional boundaries and increase efficiency and effectiveness of the organization through innovation. This include leveraging emerging technologies for new applications or helping teams shift their thinking about their work, customers and service delivery.

  • Chief Analytics Officer

    The expansion of health information technology has resulted in an explosion of data.  The CAOs analyze large sets of data across multiple information systems to help decision makers across the organization gain insight and increase their understanding, make projections about the future and recognize needed action. Turning data into useful information requires someone with data manipulation skills, but also an understanding of the business of healthcare.

  • Chief Experience Officer

    The CXO focuses on healthcare from the patient’s perspective. This individual must be able to work with teams across the organization to improve processes and workflows, so they are more patient-centric and user-friendly. A background in customer service, hospitality or even as a significant consumer of patient care services can add depth to this role.

  • Chief Performance Officer

    CPOs are focused on improving performance across teams and the organization. It requires a background in Continuous Quality Management, Lean Six Sigma or other scientific approaches to performance improvement, as well as an understanding of health environments and structures.

  • Chief Population Health Officer

    This position is responsible for setting strategies for health promotion, disease prevention and management of distinct populations, such as those with chronic disease or those following hospitalization.  CPHOs require an understanding of public health issues, team-based care models and an ability to influence physician behaviors.

The C-Suite is expanding with growth in the range of administrative responsibilities and an increased need for focus and specialization. While not all hospitals and clinics will have each of these or other emerging roles in their C-Suite, they will be representative of these important functions.   Candidates who are selected for these positions have the necessary education and experience, but they are also leaders who are capable of working with a diverse group of chiefs and their departments to attain their goals and perform as expected.