Harvard has an MD/MBA program. So do Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and at least 62 other schools in the United States. Twenty-five years ago there were less than ten. This leaves no doubt that the landscape of medicine has changed.
To run a successful practice today, David Evans, MBA, the CEO of Texas Neurology says,“You really need some of the essential business skills that you tend to see in business programs. A general Master’s or graduate degree in business gives you the essentials that are important for negotiating contracts, navigating regulations, and understanding those higher level skills that are going to be required in practice.”
Brad Klein, MD, MBA, who runs Abington Neurological Associates in Pennsylvania, says his MBA education gave him the skills to develop a marketing plan. It has also allowed him “to understand some of the additional subtle nuances in business that give me a more well-rounded perspective.”
So, what if you aren’t among the new wave of business-trained physicians? Should you go back to school and get an MBA? Business school will take a big bite out of your time, and it won’t come cheap, so it’s not a decision to take lightly.
Evans and Klein each say that it’s the skill set, not necessarily the degree, that you need to successfully run your practice.
Gregory Esper, MD, MBA, at Emory Healthcare in Georgia flat-out told course participants at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), “Don’t get an MBA to run your practice. You get an MBA if you desire some type of mastery or autonomy or purpose that’s going to help you in your career. But you hire somebody to run your practice.” Klein, who spoke with Esper at the same event, agreed. “You don’t necessarily need an MBA to do this.”
Evans, who spoke at this year’s (2018) annual meeting of the AAN, says he knows quite a few people who don’t have MBAs who are doing very well in practice. The key, he says, is navigating and taking advantage of other available resources. According to Evans, Esper and Klein, these include:
- The American Academy of Neurology
- Your State Medical Society
- The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA)
During his talk at the AAN, Klein said, “There’s a lot of billing, coding, and project management stuff that we do here at the annual [AAN] conferences. There’s the Business Administrators’ Synapse [online community for AAN members]. We also have a number of webinars that occur through the year.”
Evans says the AAN is a useful resource for private practices, and through their section for business administrators you can learn and share information among colleagues. “I use these resources. There is new stuff coming out all the time.” He recommends the AAN’s Practice Leadership Ambassador Program, a seven-month program that addresses the unique needs and challenges of practicing neurologists.
You don’t have to stay inside the AAN. Klein recommends looking at your state medical society for local business courses and attending the annual conference of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). Evans says the MGMA has a neuroscience section where you can “gain insights from people that have different perspectives.”
These are just a few of the resources available to develop your non-MBA business acumen. Walk into any bookstore or go online for a few minutes and you’ll find many many more. But, there are no shortcuts; you will need to read a few books, take some courses, and get advice from as many people as you can. The experts agree, you may not need an MBA after your name, but to run a successful practice these days, you will need to act like you do.