For the last century, no medical school in the U.S. has ever offered or provided business education to any medical students. Check it out yourself. Then consider, that over 95 percent of graduating physicians are business ignorant, after never being informed while in medical school about the substantial value that a business education provides to any physician, especially those in private medical practice. Why would that be?
That’s around 22,000 medical students per year in the U.S. Multiply that by 100 years, which equals 2,200,000 physicians who have not had a business education. Of course, a few of our medical schools have been thinking about and testing how that could be done. It is doubtful that medical schools outside the U.S. offer that curriculum. I haven’t found any.
Medical practice is a legitimate business by all standards, whether private or commercial, or governmental-controlled medical facilities. You likely have not paid any attention to the business criteria and standards throughout the world that are required for the success of any business. And is directly the result of business education (management and marketing).
About 52 percent of graduating medical students intend to enter private medical practice each year, either solo or in groups, following their specialty training. This means that, let’s say, 20,000 medical students each year would be confronting building and starting a private practice, nearly all with no real knowledge about how to do it.
You and I know how that is accomplished when we are business ignorant like I was. Call it a frail collection of multiple bits of advice and information from other doctors who never had a business education themselves. Shall we call it “the blind leading the blind?”
Once getting a generic medical practice running, a continuous series of bad and good decisions must be changed or altered in some way throughout your medical practice career. The good news is that these disruptions don’t happen when you have had an academic business education (not an MBA).
Most business experts and consultants have known for years that most physicians in private practice leave a million dollars on the table by the time they retire. They don’t have the business knowledge to recognize that they have a money asset hidden all around them. Physicians also don’t recognize financial problems early enough in practice to prevent the loss of their practice for financial reasons. That has continued to destroy thousands of medical practices for decades—but no one keeps records about that.
The myth that blinds almost all physicians
Incited by the ancient tradition of medical scholars who rarely have had an all-inclusive business education, most physicians are led to believe that physicians don’t need a business education to practice medicine. The problem is that that belief has never been adjusted to our economic system.
Unfortunately, most physicians are under the impression that they can do just as well financially on their own compared to having a suitable business education. Physician private practice incomes can be compared to the thousands of new starting small businesses. Studies have proven that small business owners starting a business, who have never had a business education, have a business failure rate of 95 percent in the first five years.
Medical doctors are in the same category but have a few advantages that tend to improve their ability to make enough income to remain in medical practice. The primary advantage is having a potentially limitless source of income available nearby—loads of people needing medical care. And that source must somehow be built up to the level that a physician prefers because it is their ultimate income source.
And that’s where every physician decides their income is enough, satisfactory, and meets their personal and family lifestyle. It starts out in a flurry, only to soon learn that their medical patients are coming in and leaving their practice in an unpredictable manner. At this point, most physicians are faced with the next problem—keeping more patients coming in instead of transferring out to another physician.
You begin thinking about how to accomplish that task using your natural creativity. Your mind goes blank. But then, you remember that you have never been taught anything about business management or marketing your medical practice. Sure, your genius was enough to build a reasonable medical practice. I won’t mention how you came up with that advice and options—because you got it from all those other physicians, the same as I did.
I wonder how many years physicians have been passing down those instructions and advice, all from physicians who never had a real business education themselves but, through trial and error, learned enough to be comfortable with their income. The first few years in practice seem to level off when it comes to income. But now, there’s another problem that comes into view.
You find yourself wanting to expand your medical practice. You know you do that by marketing but don’t have any idea how to do all that profitably. You assume that you know how to do it just because you are smart and don’t need any more help.
This is the turning point when most physicians in private practice are locked into the system they created and lose control of their medical career destiny. They let circumstances decide that for themselves.
All of us paid no attention during medical school that you might need the business tools to start and maintain your medical practice business. At least that business knowledge would have spared you weeks of time and stress trying to get started the right way. You may mess it up when you discover how to grow your practice, income, and patient load.
Don’t tell me that you have reached your ultimate potential within this framework without a business education because I know you are not going to admit there might be a solution to all this outside your intelligence level. Usually, it’s a matter of arrogance. Therefore, you must suffer the well-known consequences of never having enough income to meet your expectations for your practice and career.
It is almost impossible to help any physician do better than he or she thinks they are already doing. So, you settle for a mediocre practice and medical career. The consequences of that are permeating our whole profession today. The sad part is that all this can be eliminated by business education. And that education is available today, inexpensively, while continuing your practice. Has anyone told you about that?
Curtis G. Graham is a physician.