Learning the "Business of Medicine"

Colin T. Son, MD


November 03, 2009

There's an argument to be made that understanding the business and economics of medical practice makes physicians better caregivers. The physician population is slowly catching on to this. Education on the business side of medicine is becoming less and less a "learn as you go" type of thing and more of an option in medical school curriculums. More than 50 medical schools in the United States now offer joint MD/MBA programs. Indeed, a whole industry has arisen around the business of medicine and practice management.

Joseph Kim has his MD and an MPH and is considering going back to school for his MBA. Dr. Kim writes extensively on the business of medicine for physicians at his blog, Non-Clinical Medical Jobs.

You don't have to be looking to escape clinical practice, however, to appreciate what Dr. Kim has to say. He recently wrote about the pros and cons of getting an MD/MBA in this economic climate:

I don't have an MBA (yet), but I'd like to pursue one someday. Like many of you, I've been thinking about the pros/cons of an MBA. When's the right timing? Given the current economic conditions, I feel like I should be saving instead of spending towards further education. After all, I don't "need" an MBA to work right now. Therefore, when would it make sense to make the time and financial investment? What type of ROI will I see if I invest in an MBA? Why do tuition costs vary so much from one school to the next?
Non-Clinical Medical Jobs hosts Grand Rounds
on November 2, 2009

An MBA as a second degree may be slight overkill for many physicians, but it's certainly no longer limited merely to the physician interested in a full-time career in healthcare administration. Consider the options presented in the post Medical Writing or Medical Blogging?

The world of medical writing is actually quite vast. Examples of writing projects include:
  • Regulatory writing

  • Protocols

  • Proposals/grant requests

  • Drug safety reports

  • Marketing campaigns

  • Ads and commercials

  • Medical education

  • Review articles

  • Ghost writing (did I actually say that?)

  • Abstracts

  • PowerPoint presentations

  • Manuscripts

  • Medical transcription

  • And yes, blogging

One of the reasons that the business side of healthcare has been so neglected is likely because the subject is taboo. Take, for example, a resident physician joining a practice as a nonpartner. It's difficult to compare your salary to the national average. Thankfully, Dr. Kim has this subject covered.

The phrase "average salary" tells you nothing about the range of salaries. Hence, it's a very misleading term unless you know the range of salaries. When you're thinking about a career transition and you're researching salary ranges, avoid the question of "average salary." Instead, explore the potential range of salaries and then you'll have a realistic idea for compensation.

Dr. Kim's Non-Clinical Medical Jobs blog is not just for physicians trying to get away from direct patient care. Its focus on the business of medicine makes it worth a look by any physician. It also makes it a perfect host for Grand Rounds.

Grand Rounds is a summary of the best from the medical blogosphere. It features posts from physicians, scientists, nurses, and many others.