Why Physicians Should Get an MBA

With policies like the Affordable Care Act in effect and managed care organizations remaining increasingly complex, some of the greatest challenges in health care today are business related. In response to this trend, more and more physicians in training—as well as an increasing number of practicing physicians—are choosing to round out their medical knowledge and training with a business degree.  

What you don’t know can hurt you

Let’s face it, most newly minted M.D.s don’t understand how a hospital or clinical practice makes money, how to manage people, how to make or interpret financial models, or much less how to lead a large complex organization. Earning an M.B.A. provides physicians with a solid leadership foundation to build upon, and the practical toolset necessary to address many of the looming challenges facing healthcare today.  

According to the MSAR database, there are currently 79 schools offering M.D.-M.B.A. programs in the United States—a number that has continued to increase year over year. In part, this is because earning an M.B.A. provides new physicians with more immediate impact in decision-making scenarios in hospitals and large clinical practices. An M.B.A. can also help more senior physicians prepare for transitions into leadership or management roles, if and when they decide to throttle back on practicing clinical medicine. 

Meet the new physician leader—NOT the same as the old boss

recent guide from US News & World Report emphasizes how join academic programs in medicine and management train future physician leaders who can oversee complex health organizations and have a direct influence on patient care. This means that physicians with dual degrees have a unique competitive edge in the lucrative hospital administration field, in which top leaders have traditionally held M.B.A.s. 

These characteristics are often associated with leadership ability. This means that physicians with dual degrees have a unique competitive edge in the lucrative hospital administration field in which top leaders have traditionally held M.B.A.s. A study in 2011 found that hospitals employing physicians as CEOs outperformed those with non-medical leadership.

As medicine becomes more of a business, it is essential for physicians to develop a good framework for understanding the ever-changing drivers that can affect them, including insurance reimbursement, budgeting and financial modeling, IT security, marketing strategies and healthcare law, to name just a few. M.B.A. programs can also help physicians learn how to communicate more persuasively and effectively with other decision-makers, including board members and potential investors.

The additional knowledge and skills gained from a healthcare M.B.A. or traditional M.B.A. can go a long way toward helping physicians navigate through an increasingly complex healthcare landscape, while also grooming them to become highly effective leaders. When coupled with an M.D. , an M.B.A. can really set you apart and help pave the way for an eventual foray into leadership roles.

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