Doctors need both medical and business school skills

Medical education

Today’s doctors don’t just need medical skills, they need business skills as well.

It’s time medical schools teach fundamental business and leadership training that doctors need to maximize quality and reduce costs in their clinical practices, Robert M. Pearl, M.D., executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, and Alexander L. Fogel, a student at the Stanford University School of Medicine, write in NEJM Catalyst.

“Regardless of whether future physicians decide to work in a large healthcare system or solo practice, they will need fundamental knowledge and skills in three key business disciplines: leadership, teamwork and data analytics,” Pearl and Fogel write.

Fortunately, most medical schools have a ready source to teach students about these concepts--their business schools, which have been teaching those topics for decades. Recognizing the need for doctors to have business skills, many U.S. medical schools now offer joint M.D./M.B.A. degree programs, they say.

The implementation of the Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act (MACRA) that will push physicians to participate in new models of care, making the need for business skills even more important, Pearl and Fogel argue. Both propose that medical schools, in conjunction with business school faculty, develop an interdisciplinary four-week clinical rotation during the fourth year of medical school in which students identify and solve real problems facing the school’s hospitals and clinics.

They aren’t the only ones making the argument that physicians can benefit from business skills. “One of the best things I ever did was to go back to business school,” says Vivian Lee, M.D., dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City and CEO of its hospital system, according to Fortune.

Business school skills are integral for healthcare leaders as the industry moves toward value-based care, she says. The healthcare industry is the only business in the country were organizations don’t really know the costs of running their business, Lee said at the recent Fortune Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego, according to the report.