There is increasing recognition of the need for physician leadership in quality and patient safety, and emerging evidence that physician leadership contributes to improved care. Hospitals are beginning to establish physician leader positions; however, there is little guidance on how to define these roles and the strategies physician leaders can use toward improving care. This case study examines the roles of four physician leaders, describes their contribution to the design and implementation of hospital quality and patient safety agendas and discusses the creation of a physician network to support these activities. The positions were established between July 2006 and April 2009. All are corporate roles with varying reporting and accountability structures. The physician leads are involved in strategic planning, identifying and leading quality and safety initiatives, physician engagement and culture change. All have significantly contributed to the implementation of hospital improvement activities and are seen as influential among their peers as resources and mentors for local project success. Despite their accomplishments, these physician leads have been challenged by ambiguous role descriptions and difficulty identifying effective improvement strategies. As such, an expanding physician network was created with the goal of sharing approaches and tools and creating new strategies. Physician leaders are an important factor in the improvement of safety and quality within hospitals. This case study provides a template for the creation of such positions and highlights the importance of networking as an effective strategy for improving local care and advancing professional development of physician leaders in quality and patient safety.
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