I am going to make a bold statement here. Are you ready for it? There is nothing wrong with health care providers thinking like businessmen.
I know what you’re thinking, but I feel the word “business” gets a bad reputation in medicine. We immediately associate the term with profit-hungry, egocentric individuals, a preconceived notion probably rooted in their unfair depiction in popular media.
I want to challenge that perception by arguing that perhaps business and medicine are not at odds. Maybe good business practices allow physicians to focus on what matters most – delivering quality medical care. In that case, it would be advantageous for the average physician to start thinking more like a businessman.
Here are four reasons why I think the business mindset isn’t a bad thing:
1. Business-savvy individuals are constantly aware of the external economic environment they function in. From monitoring changes in supplier power to government regulations, they know that for their business to succeed they can’t pretend that their organization operates in a bubble.
2. Business-savvy individuals care about operational efficiency. They know that processes should first be fully understood and then analyzed for improvement. They know focusing on operations does not just mean cutting costs, but innovating a system to better serve the needs of the end-user.
3. Business-savvy individuals understand that effective communication is the foundation for success in the workplace. They are constantly cultivating mindfulness and improving their social skills. They utilize opportunities to work on teams in a way that maximizes the contributions of each individual member.
4. Lastly, business-savvy individuals know that the principal reason they are in business is for the customer. A company’s finances, marketing, and operations all hinge heavily on their ability to serve the needs and wants of their target consumer. If they fail to fulfill these needs, everything else falls apart.
Looking back, completing a masters in business administration has been one of the most difficult things I’ve done. As a student at a top MBA program, I was surrounded by brilliant, competent, and ambitious individuals who challenged me every step of the way. The subject matter itself was also difficult, mostly because it was in stark contrast to the biochemistry and pathology that I am used to.
Nonetheless, I gained the opportunity to fill a personal void. I realize I won’t be the most knowledgeable or experienced person to tackle every administrative problem I face in my career. However, when I see challenges in the clinic, I will feel empowered to identify the underlying issues and seek solutions to better serve my patients. If my patients have to wait for more than an hour to see a provider or receive suboptimal service due to the organization’s financial constraints, I refuse to let them become victims of a flawed system.
As a scientist at heart, I try to gather all the facts before coming to a conclusion. After a grueling and intense nine months, here’s what I’ve found: business isn’t evil. Innovation and creativity are emphasized at the core of every discussion. There is a refreshing emphasis on long-term goals and value maximization. And yes, even financial analysts learn ethics.
Business and medicine are deeply integrated in the world we operate in. I’m not arguing every physician-in-training should pursue an MBA, but maybe it’s time to take a step outside of our comfort zone and take ownership of the issues we face in the largely inefficient, unprofitable industry we operate in. Why? The answer is simple — if the health care system fails in the end, it’s our patients who suffer.
Shraddha Dalwadi is a medical student who blogs at Love and Medicine.
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