The world of medicine is largely reliant on how well healthcare functions as a system. Traditionally, physicians have not played a significant role within the business of medicine, however, this is drastically changing. A study published in 2009 from Penn Medicine found that of 6,500 hospitals, only 3.5 percent were run by physicians and according to the New York Times, this number is still less than 5 percent. As a result, many physicians are going back to school or enrolling in joint MBA programs. Harvard Business School reports the number of joint MD/MBA programs had more than doubled in 2016 from 2000 in order to combat the increased interest in these programs (Advisory.com).
In addition to a joint MD/MBA degree with the Indiana University School of Medicine, the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI offers an MBA exclusively for physicians looking to navigate the changing world of healthcare. The Physician MBA Program is focused on the intersection of medicine and business, and it allows practicing physicians to pursue an MBA while working.
This increase in physician leadership has stemmed from the increased need for individuals with understanding of both the business and clinical side of medicine in order to incorporate the best patient-care services within their organizations. Rocky Singh, MD, MBA’15, current Chief Medical Officer at Indiana University Health West Hospital (IUH) in Avon, Ind., does exactly this.
He describes his experience going back to get his MBA training as "bridging the gap” between the clinical and business side of medicine. Receiving analytical business training has helped Dr. Singh assess the needs of IUH and its endeavor to add dialysis. With his MBA and physician training, Dr. Singh is able to work with his team to assess the patient need, financial viability, short-term and long-term impacts of the project and feasibility.
“You have to see what brings the best value to patient-care,” he emphasizes.
Additionally, physicians like Paul Kirchgraber, MD, MBA, current Vice President and Global General Manager for Covance Central Laboratories in Indianapolis, have transitioned into corporate roles following many years of clinical practice. After practicing pathology for nine years, Dr. Kirchgraber realized he wanted the chance to positively impact healthcare by “leading people in a social environment” and has continued to improve patient care through drug development. Currently, he is working with his team to implement projects that bring necessary equipment, instruments, and improved processes into drug development. Dr. Kirchgraber’s experience as a pathologist and as a business leader has him working with his team on approvals with new instruments, forecasting viability of projects, and budgeting to improve the processes involved with the advancement of new treatment options.
When asked about his journey, Dr. Kirchgraber replied, “Every piece of it has been enjoyable to me.”
Bridging the gap between the clinical aspect of medicine and healthcare as a business has historically been challenging, and this is what Saura Fortin, MD, MBA’18, Chief Physician Executive of the Eskenazi Women’s Center of Excellence, has noted. Dr. Fortin pointed out the importance of understanding “the interactions of the healthcare system with administrators, policy makers, and physicians themselves.”
She goes on to explain that training in the business field, specifically her Physician MBA training at the Kelley School, helped her bridge that gap. Dr. Fortin says her experience has helped her become a stronger decision maker by understanding the effects of a decision on a patient as well as the healthcare system.
She states, “Physicians who complete an MBA have the opportunity to understand the healthcare system, manage it better, and make huge improvements.”
Healthcare and business have become tightly-knit in the recent years as technological advancements, social media, and process improvements lead to new and innovative ways to improve the patient experience and quality of care.
Special thank you to Dr. Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, Dr. Paul Kirchgraber, Dr. Rocky Singh, and Dr. Saura Fortin for their participation and insight.