To state the obvious: physicians have busy schedules. These healthcare leaders balance patient care with filling out paperwork, conducting research, managing staff, and participating in continuing learning opportunities. It's not the sort of schedule into which a graduate degree program fits easily.
For those who decide to pursue a Physician Executive MBA, flexibility typically ranks high on must-have list. That's what makes online education such an appealing option: distance learning offers MBA students convenience that traditional programs simply can't match. For a busy doctor, that can make a difference maker.
In this article, we look at some of the reasons for earning a Physician Executive MBA, how graduates use their new qualifications, and where to find full-time or part-time programs that meet scheduling needs. We'll discuss:
Earning a Physician Executive MBA typically takes between one and two years; programs are offered in in-person and hybrid formats. These programs aim to produce physician executives with deep knowledge of both the medical field and the business world. Bringing together these two sets of knowledge produces well-rounded professionals who understand the complexities of the healthcare industry.
Some students decide to complete an M.D. and MBA simultaneously. Such programs typically take five years to complete. At the University of Southern California, students spend their first through third years and their final year working through a medical school curriculum. The program devotes Year Four to business coursework, including studies in management communications for leaders, organizational behavior and leadership, operations management, corporate finance, and accounting concepts and financial reporting.
Programs also exist for physicians who decided to focus on their medical education first and pursue an Executive Physician MBA degree program after. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) provides the oldest physician leadership MBA program in the world; it takes just 11 months to complete. This innovative program includes four week-long, in-person residencies across the curriculum in addition to online core courses in accounting, finance, economics, quality improvement, lean operations, change management in healthcare settings, customer value, strategy, and business planning in healthcare. More than 800 alumni of this program have seen significant career improvements in the form of higher salaries and promotions.
Many physicians pursue careers in medicine because they feel a calling to save lives and improve healthcare delivery. They focus all their energies on completing medical school, undertaking residencies, and beginning their careers, but soon learn that a thorough understanding of healthcare administration can help both them and the hospitals, clinics, universities, and facilities where they work. It can also facilitate future entrepreneurship opportunities.
As the American medical system grows more complicated and expansive, physician leaders who want to understand what happens outside the examination room can benefit substantially from these programs. They'll learn about operations management, healthcare marketing, executive leadership, information systems, healthcare policy, human resources, and decision making. Some programs also provide electives to help students focus on specializations within the field.
Medical school may provide some training in this area, but clinicians increasingly find that they do not possess the deep skills needed to navigate the healthcare industry. For physicians who want to improve their understanding of medical and insurance billing or get better at marketing their practice, a full MBA may be overkill. Taking a few individual classes can help build specific knowledge. But for those who want to understand what drives the business of healthcare, an MBA moves beyond fundamentals to provide a deep understanding.
Physicians with MBAs are in a unique position. They possess a deep understanding of both sides of the healthcare field: medicine and business. Because few professionals can rival their knowledge, these individuals tend to be in high demand for a wide range of executive positions. While some physicians know they want to continue working in predominantly patient-facing roles, others may decide to transition out of the operating room and into the board room.
Some physicians decide they want to pursue an administrative or managerial position at a hospital or practice. Whether working as a hospital CEO or boutique practice manager, they continue providing medical care while taking a more active role in the business' management. Some graduates even decide to open their own boutique practices with their new-found administrative knowledge.
Physicians who want to continue conducting research but are ready to leave day-to-day patient care behind may join the ever-expanding worlds of biotechnology, medical devices, or pharmaceuticals. For physicians with specialty experience, these roles can provide a natural next step. For instance, a doctor who focused on cardiology services may decide they want to transition into project management for medical device companies focused on designing and producing pacemakers, prosthetic heart valves, stents, and other much-needed devices.
Rather than working for a single hospital or clinic, some physicians may find their combination of knowledge and skills best suit them for consulting roles. Firms like Deloitte and McKinsey & Company hire physicians to act as consultants to healthcare organizations. Some physician executives may decide to create their own consulting businesses and build a portfolio of clients.
Lastly, pursuing an entrepreneurial opportunity may make the most sense for some graduates. Whether creating a consulting firm, private practice, think tank, or non-profit, completing a Physician Executive Master of Business Administration can help students build the necessary skills to launch startups.
Many schools offer online Physician Executive MBA programs, providing students numerous options. Many MBAs in healthcare management and healthcare administration exist online, and some physicians decide these degrees provide the most complementary education based on career aspirations.
That said, general MBAs and even those focused on the healthcare industry do not provide the same type of targeted, in-depth studies as those exclusively directed toward physicians. Several schools now offer Physician Executive MBA programs, though none have been around as long as The University of Tennessee-Knoxville's.
Auburn University's Raymond J. Herbert College of Business provides a Physician Executive MBA program lasting 21 months and requiring two campus-based residencies as well as domestic and international experiential trips. Meanwhile, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) offers a similar physician EMBA program aligned with the American Association for Physician Leadership. This program takes two years to complete and pairs online learning with monthly residency sessions lasting three days each.
Physicians looking for an accelerated physician executive MBA that combines online distance learning with in-person residencies may decide that The University of Tennessee-Knoxville works best for them. Completed in just 11 months, UTK's program brings together cutting-edge topics in the business of medicine with experienced practitioners and professors, leadership development, organizational action, and mentorship.
Online classes run for three hours on Saturday mornings; students miss only 25 days of work to participate in quarterly residencies. This program generally requires between 20 and 25 hours of commitment each week. UTK's cohort-based program starts each January and welcomes professionals with at least five years of experience.
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