The Myth That Physicians Are Not Trained In Business

In our practice management consultantancy, I am always being told by physicians (and non-physicians) that physicians aren’t educated on the business of medicine. By the manner in which that statement is made, it seems that physicians are resigned to the proposition that the business of a practice is so significantly different than providing clinical services, that it would take an investment in business education similar to the one they made in Medical School to gain business proficiency.

We will make the assertion that PHYSICIANS DO HAVE TRAINING IN THE TOOLS REQUIRED TO MASTER THEIR BUSINESS.

While it is true that physicians are not educated in all of the nuances of business, they are trained in and equipped with a set of problem-identification and problem-solving skills that allow for the mastery of the relatively simple business process of their medical practice.

A physician’s basic medical education begins with the study of the systems that make up the human organism, and how those systems function together to enable that organism to thrive. The education continues with the diagnosis and treatment of various disorders of the systems. This is done through the analysis of signs and symptoms that suggest disorder with one or more of the systems. The years of a physician’s training hones these skills that identify problems and their solutions, and the trained physician can analyze a patient’s data (history, physical examination, and laboratory studies), and the diagnosis is very often obvious.

The skills required for this finely tuned process of problem identification and solution are the same skills required to manage the business of a medical practice. The steps in refining those diagnostic skills for application to the practice’s business are the same as in medical education:

 

  1. A review of the business process (the steps and systems that have clinical services produce practice income);
  2. Familiarity with the management reports that monitor each of those steps/systems and measure overall practice financial performance;
  3. Learning the “normal values” of those management reports, so that the “abnormals” stand out like an abscess of the skin;
  4. Applying “therapeutic interventions” to correct whatever is not working

The proper “therapy” for repairing a broken business process becomes obvious when the source of the breakdown is identified. Like dealing with a clinical problem, the secret is not in having the correct answer but rather in asking the right questions.