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Medicine is a Profession, but Healthcare is a Business

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

diplomaA prospective doctor’s long and arduous education has often been all about medicine, with precious little training or experience in the business of running a business. No sooner than a newly minted MD hangs out a shingle, but he or she is hit squarely in the face with the reality that “Healing is an art, medicine is a profession, but healthcare is a business.”

To the degree that might have been true years ago, now it’s an inescapable challenge. Since the advent of healthcare reform, top-to-bottom changes have been sweeping and sometimes painful.  Hospitals, medical groups and individual providers have increasingly been dealing with tough business issues.

More than a few providers are getting an immersive education in the business of employment contracts, forming (or dissolving) group practices, competitive marketing, increasing costs vs. shrinking profits…and dozens of other enterprise issues.

“Healthcare has become a business, a fact that may make some doctors squirm,” the reports the TribLIVE business page. “But an increasing number of physicians have accepted the situation and are seeking business training as they adjust to pressures that they cut costs and improve the quality of health care.

“Business training hasn't traditionally been included in medical schools, but that is starting to change. There are 54 universities that offered dual MD-MBA degrees, up from 39 in 2003, according to Association of MD MBA Programs.

“ ‘Doctors are getting business training because there is more equipment, personnel issues and marketing that is required to run a practice than ever before,’ said Amelia Pare, president of the Allegheny County Medical Society and a McMurray plastic surgeon. ‘And if you are an employed physician [at a hospital] you must show value for your continued employment.’ ”

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) is a large nonprofit organization that is leveraging its relationship with its academic partner, the University of Pittsburgh. The Marshall Webster Physician Leadership program is available to UPMC doctors through Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business.

A number of universities now offer a dual MD-MBA degree option, combining medical training with business and health industry management courses. In the past ten years, the number of programs in the US has grown from a half-dozen to over 65, including those at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell and others.

Education has always been a fundamental component in healthcare delivery. And increasing the business savvy of physicians is essential to dealing effectively with changes in the business of medical care and marketing.

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