Physicians learn how to run their business as they go

BY ELIZABETH BASSETT
http://www.fwbusinesspress.com

It’s often been said, but medicine is all about the patients. It’s about giving them what they need and what they want, and in that way, medicine isn’t much different than any company working to please its clients and customers.

What is different about physicians is they are intensely trained to practice medicine, but learning about the business side of health care is a long process that starts in medical school and may never stop, physicians say.

“The real education doesn’t happen until after they graduate from medical school,� said Dr. Bruce Dubin, associate dean of academic affairs at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

At Fort Worth’s local medical school, students are introduced to health care systems during their first two years, which are spent largely in the classroom, Dubin said. However, medical school has been a four-year academic pursuit since the early 1900s, and science has advanced significantly since then. As a result, there is more and more science to fit into a student’s education in the same amount of time, and business learning often is addressed cursorily.

After graduation, new physicians start their residencies, of extended periods of hands-on learning in programs across the country. The JPS Health Network hosts many doctors at the beginning of their careers, and Dr. Jay Haynes, chief medical officer, said that about 20 years ago or so there was little formal training in business, either in medical school or in residencies.

“I learned the hard way,� Haynes said.

Haynes did graduate work in medical management, though, and so he has more of a business background then many physicians. Both Haynes and Dubin said there are lots of continuing medical education courses dedicated to business practices for physicians, offered by various institutions and groups.

By becoming more business savvy, Haynes said, a physician can be better prepared to meet a patient’s needs. Good leadership skills and office management can contribute toward increasing productivity in the work place anywhere.

Many physicians band together into clinics or larger groups in order to lighten their business responsibilities, Haynes said, but even with a good office manager, a physician should have enough of a business background to create a series of checks and balances in the workplace.

“It is a service industry; by and large, we have to measure the quality indicators and we have to do our best to meet those expectations,� he said.
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