A common fallacy shared by many medical students and pre-meds is that doctors are isolated from business practices such as marketing, management, and finance. A rude awakening is applied to anyone upon graduating residency when he discovers that the laws of economics apply to medicine just as easily as they apply to any other employment field. Many doctors are woefully unprepared for running a hospital or clinic. Many of the private practice physicians I know resort to hiring an office manager to take care of the billing and staffing issues. While we would all love to believe that our medical school and residency program endowed us with certain skills, getting paid by insurance companies for all that knowledge becomes more difficult. Therefore, I propose a business school meant for physicians.
Unfortunately, my suggestion will be slapped down by many of the naysayers within the pre-med and medical school community. A lot of them will say, “If I wanted to go into business, I would’ve gone to business school.” What’s worse is that many physicians have a pretentious, self-righteous attitude that says that they should be shielded away from the profit-seeking motives of businessmen. But I see it differently. I say that anyone who pursues a job paying more than $100,000 a year should have a profit-seeking mindset.
While I don’t suggest that we all go out and get MBAs, I do think that there needs to be some instruction on how to run a business so that physicians can learn to accurately charge for their services. Fourth year medical students would be the best candidates to reap from such a system. I envision a month-long Kaplan-style course where students are taught for 40 hours a week in various business topics. The courses would be condensed, focused on medicine, and would provide real-world instruction for how a doctor should conduct his clinic. And if you think that working for a hospital as either a hospitalist or an emergency physician will shield you from needing to know about business, the only person you’re deceiving is yourself. The physician who knows how to properly bill for his time will be able to generate more revenue for the hospital, thus making him a more valued employee.
For the month-long business course, I envision something similar to the following schedule:
week 1—mornings: economics, afternoons: management
week 2—mornings: accounting, afternoons: marketing
week 3—mornings: finance, afternoons: business law
week 4—medical billing
A video series of these courses could be available online along with a condensed textbook so that practicing physicians and residents could also study this subject. While everything would be taught in one month, there is no need to water down these subjects. Consider an undergraduate management course. Usually, a semester-long class is taught in 40 one-hour lectures. When I took management, I was continually frustrated by how slow the material was being taught. Certainly physicians can cram all of that information and more into 20 hours. Further, by making all of the subjects centered on medicine, doctors would be more likely to enjoy pursuing these classes. Just imagine learning how to balance books, create advertisements for your practice, resolve conflicts amongst your employees, how to pick better assistants, and the laws regarding incorporation of a company.
With this knowledge, physicians would have a more employable skill set. I would imagine that anyone who sets up such an online course would have no shortage of doctors willing to pay to learn those skills.