While the traditional characteristics of empathy, responsibility, and clinical acumen persist as the foundations of an excellent physician, these tenets alone are no longer sufficient in providing the best care for patients in today’s healthcare system.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2021
In response to growing complexities in medicine, the role of the physician has evolved to not only care for individual patients, but also to critically evaluate and maximize the value that patients perceive through their care (Redefining Health Care: Creating Value-Based Competition on Results. Harvard Business School Publishing; 2006; What Does It Mean to Be a Good Physician Today? NEJM Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery. 2016), to consider operational and financial aspects of care delivery (Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020;163:397-399; Arch Intern Med. 2001;161:1261-1266), and to lead teams that innovate in clinical care and practice management (Six Tests for Physicians and Their Leaders for the Decade Ahead. New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery. 2020).
In other words, the modern physician exercises the principles of the business of medicine to provide comprehensive care for patients in today’s healthcare system.
Traditionally, medical education has emphasized diagnostics and treatments and has overlooked business training. Over time, physicians have often been sidelined in administrative decision-making—evident in the growing administrative personnel and associated costs that accounted for 34% of U.S. healthcare spending in 2017 (Ann Intern Med. 2020;172:134-142). Instead, to develop a more effective healthcare system, clinicians, as key stakeholders who are knowledgeable about patient care and uniquely positioned to identify granular operational deficiencies, should be among the primary decision makers.
To earn a seat at the table and have the opportunity to self-advocate, however, physicians must not only be clinically well-versed, but they also must be proficient in the areas of leadership, care delivery, and practice management.
Earning a formal degree such as a Master of Business Administration, nonetheless, isn’t required or practical for most physicians. Instead, a focused study of relevant business of medicine topics may better serve the specific needs of the modern physician. In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, asynchronous learning, or remote study that’s completed within the learner’s schedule and time frame, has been increasingly used as a flexible alternative to traditional in-person classroom environments. Several online resources exist to empower physicians with the knowledge required to autonomously advocate for patients, physicians, and a more effective healthcare system. These resources highlight medically relevant business content, with teachings from world-renouned thought leaders.