The risks of not hiring an interim leader in healthcare

Not Hiring an Interim Leader? Watch Out for These 3 Risks


In periods of transition and change, it’s common for healthcare organizations to think they simply need to dig in, cultivate their resilience, and push through. After all, is the cost of engaging an interim leader worth it when your time and resources could be used to identify talent or drive initiatives forward?

It’s absolutely worth it.  In one recent example, an interim specialty clinic director increased OR cases by 12% in one year. In another instance, an interim director of case management saved a hospital system $1.4 million in just eight months. The reason interim leaders are effective is simple: because the healthcare industry is not simple.

The leadership role you need to replace may be more challenging to fill than anticipated. Maybe your organization’s initiative is more demanding than expected. Maybe outcomes are getting worse despite your organization’s best efforts.

In such situations, the value of an interim leader becomes clear. What can happen if you don’t engage an interim leader? Let’s take a closer look at three pitfalls to watch out for.

1. Circumstances Force Poor Decisions

Changes in leadership are a fact of life in healthcare, whether due to departures, promotions, or other reasons. These transitions, whether expected or not, can disrupt the smooth operation of healthcare organizations. That’s where interim leaders come into play. They can help maintain stability and continuity during uncertain times.

What happens when you don’t have someone in that interim role? It can lead to a range of problems. Workloads get scattered, causing inefficiency, stress, and even burnout among support staff. Plus, unexpected leadership changes can force organizations into making hurried decisions that harm them in the long run.

By bringing in an interim leader, organizations can make transitions smoother and give themselves time to plan and search for a suitable permanent replacement.

2. Systems Suffer From a Lack of Project Management

When healthcare organizations take on new projects, having an experienced interim leader can be a game-changer. These leaders bring expertise that’s crucial for keeping things running smoothly. On the other hand, not having a specialized leader for major projects can lead to trouble.

Consider implementing a new Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. Without an interim leader who knows the ins and outs of EHR systems, there’s a risk that your staff won’t adopt the new system properly. This can create problems down the road, like missing or incomplete records, which can lead to medical errors and record retention penalties.

Additionally, without an interim leader to guide the adoption of the new EHR, bad habits can take root, which can be costly and time-consuming to undo and correct later on.

3. Quality Continues to Drop and Put Your Organization at Risk

An outsider’s perspective can be invaluable if your healthcare organization struggles to meet its goals or maintain high-quality standards. An interim leader can identify underlying issues contributing to performance problems and create a plan to get things back on track.

Ignoring the need for this kind of help is risky. Most of the issues in healthcare organizations stem from systemic problems. If these problems are left unaddressed, real, lasting improvements are unlikely, and this can lead to a range of risks:

  • More medical errors and poorer patient outcomes
  • Losing eligibility for reimbursement from programs like CMS
  • Earning a poor reputation as an employer

In an environment where healthcare organizations operate on slim margins and face high patient expectations, interim healthcare leaders are essential for building sustainable healthcare delivery systems.

Kirby Bates Associates: Your Partner in Finding the Right Leaders

When your organization faces challenges or transitions, you need a trusted partner to guide you. Whether dealing with leadership changes, launching a new initiative, or struggling to meet goals, you can count on Kirby Bates Associates to help. With over 30 years of experience, we have a strong track record of assisting healthcare organizations in delivering high-quality, cost-effective care. We can quickly connect you with an experienced interim leader to help move your organization forward.

Ready to improve your healthcare organization? Contact Kirby Bates Associates today.