Running a Medical Practice. Is it a business?
We physicians are really not taught anything about business in our medical school or residency programs. That is one of the biggest reasons why almost all of the residents end up looking for physician jobs. Instead we should be looking for ‘physician opportunities’ and not just physician jobs. And we as physicians should be able to create an opportunity where none exists. That is what businessmen do- They create a shop, they find out where the market is and go there or bring the market to where they are. I know that we as doctors hate the word business. But the truth is “a medical practice is a small business” and to be successful we better run it as one.
Running a business in a medical practice is more than seeing patients. It is about hiring, firing, finance, cash flow, accounts receivable, accounts payable, real estate and everything that a business has. Physicians have to scour information online, offline to learn to start their own practice. And I am still learning. But I always end up with this thought…I wish someone had taught me that. Every mistake in business has a cost in dollars.
Running a business in its entirety leads to only one goal i.e. keep the practice profitable and viable. If the physician can keep keep his medical practice profitable, he can continue to see his patients and hopefully able to get more doctors in to see more patients. If the physician cannot keep his medical practice running profitably – then he eventually will have no choice but to close the doors. Then he cannot see any patients. The patients lose their trusted doctors, medical practice employees lose their jobs, the doctor loses his livelihood, the hospital loses a physician and his referrals. In the end; not learning the business skills as physicians is a loss to the whole community.
To become a business man does not mean you have to ignore your conscience or exploit someone. You as a physician still should do what is right for your patients. Patients are the first priority. In fact patients are the ‘customers’ of your ‘shop’. Every business can only be successful if they treat their customers well and gain their trust. Also you have to do what is right for your business. That may mean changing with the constantly changing times, adding a new technology, firing an unproductive employee, negotiating the vendor prices down.
I hope I made a point why all physicians should learn business skills. I propose and encourage all program directors to make a space for business in the curriculum of residency and medical schools. It is injustice to our Young physicians and residents when we throw them into a sea full of sharks without teaching them how to swim.