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May 12, 2015

Professionalism, Fiduciary Duty, and Health-Related Business Leadership

Author Affiliations
  • 1Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2015;313(18):1819-1820. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.4398

How should leaders of health-related businesses weigh the demand for efficiency and profit alongside the care of patients and the professional development of physicians? How might physicians approach these leadership roles to withstand the pressures that can divert behavior away from the espoused purposes and ethical standards of medicine?

Perhaps health-related organizations, such as Geisinger, Kaiser Permanente, and Athenahealth, should be led just like any business. The economic model of how companies are optimally run suggests that when leaders focus on profit and shareholders, they best advance social welfare. Letting business leaders pursue something other than economic objectives raises concerns that it would only license them to serve their own personal interests while justifying it disingenuously as contributing to the greater good.