4 Tips For Physicians Going To The Business Side Of Healthcare

Fri 26 Jan, 2024


                                                             By Paige Twenter

Whether physicians sink or swim in healthcare's business side boils down to four differences between clinical and nonclinical operations, according to a Jan. 22 Harvard Business Review article by Sachin H. Jain, MD.

Dr. Jain, CEO of SCAN Health Plan, has mentored numerous physicians who jump to managing nonclinical spaces, including medical groups, managed care companies, venture capital, pharmaceutical companies, the government, clinical administration and healthcare startups.

Here are his four tips:

1. Know business isn't always a team sport.

The goal in healthcare is the end result, whether it's a diagnosis or a treatment plan, and most times that's only possible with a large team of people. Corporate settings are not set up this way, and this misstep can land physicians with the "bad operators" label.

"What many physicians fail to realize is that in most organizations, vision is cheap and implementation is king," Dr. Jain wrote.

To succeed, physicians need to rely on themselves for vision and execution.

2. Mull over decisions rather than relying on instinct.

Clinical care often requires gut decisions based on limited information. For example, in the event of a heart attack, there isn't time to process everything. In business, though, careful deliberation is needed most often.

The best physician leaders start with questions and gather as much data as possible, which results in higher respect for their executive skills.

3. Focus on outcomes, not politics.

Healthcare administration is often slow and tedious, with proposals for change taking 12 to 18 months to implement because of a long chain of command. Physicians who leap to other businesses, such as venture capital or pharmaceutical companies, might be in for a culture shock.

"Getting gummed up in real or imagined organizational politics can often lead physicians in business to expect the organizational pace will be slow," according to the article. "They focus on organizational alignment rather than outcomes, leaving others wondering why more isn't getting done."

Knowing how organizational decisions are made is vital to success.

4. Learn the language.

Physicians should learn key concepts and language in the business world, but leaning too heavily on a new vocabulary can shrink one's physician identity. Learning business terms and blending them into medical conversations can ease the transition.

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