By Daniella Shamalova OMS III, Aidan Papalia OMS III,
Jonathan Muratori OMS III, Gregory Saggio, DO
Part of the AMSA Medical Education Blog Series of 2021-2022
From an outsider’s perspective, the modern medical system may appear to be purely clinical; consisting solely of interactions between healthcare providers and their patients. However, in reality, it is an ever-evolving multidisciplinary field that relies heavily on non-medical disciplines to operate efficiently. Business is playing an increasingly important role in modern medicine to address important challenges such as rising healthcare costs, information management, resource allocation, and efficient healthcare delivery.
While business plays a pivotal role in modern medicine, US medical schools have traditionally failed to incorporate fundamental business disciplines into their curriculum. Over the past three decades, there has been a substantial increase in the number of medical schools offering dual degree programs for students wishing to pursue an MBA in addition to their medical degree.1 However, receiving an MBA in medical school is a daunting task coupled with the immense demands of medical education. As a result, medical students are graduating with a lack of fundamental business and management skills necessary for success in modern medicine.
To better understand the apparent gap of knowledge in graduating medical students, we administered a brief survey to assess the business knowledge of medical students. Our school implemented a pilot program, offering an elective to fourth-year students titled “The Business of Medicine at NYITCOM”, which was designed to introduce students to fundamental concepts of business knowledge.
Surveys were administered before and after the pilot program to assess students’ attitudes towards the importance of business education in medical school as well as the course’s efficacy in familiarizing students with various healthcare concepts such as billing & coding, insurance policies, contract negotiation, and loans & debt management. The purpose of the course was to introduce students to the business concepts they will experience in their post-graduate training as well as provide them with resources to further familiarize themselves with the business of healthcare.
The results of our study were clear: a business education is fundamental to the creation of a well-rounded physician. While 88% of students reported that they should have at minimum a basic understanding of business concepts before beginning residency, over 70% of students reported minimal knowledge of the business skills assessed before the course. These numbers demonstrate the current gap between expected business competency and exposure to business concepts offered through a traditional medical curriculum. This discrepancy emphasizes the dire need for a business education available to medical students.
For business concepts like billing, insurance, contract negotiation, debt management, and malpractice, each respective survey showed that more than 60% of students were somewhat uncomfortable to very uncomfortable in their current knowledge. Following the course, these numbers reversed, demonstrating that more than 62% of students felt somewhat comfortable to very comfortable applying these concepts in their future practice. Ultimately, these surveys illustrate that the pilot program was a success in familiarizing students with fundamental business knowledge.
The last question we asked was simple, “should this course be a fundamental part of every medical student’s education?” An overwhelming 90% of students responded with a clear, “yes.” Medical school is already taxing enough with so much to learn and so little time. However, students are making the time to learn basic business concepts because we realize how essential it is for our education and the future of healthcare. We are putting ourselves at a disadvantage if we do not understand the basic principles of our future careers.
Although we surveyed students who had already enrolled in a class dedicated to instructing students in business aspects of medicine, the growing number of dual degree MBA programs offered in the country coupled with the rapidly changing environment surrounding healthcare begs the question of whether medical schools are adequately preparing students for the real world of healthcare. With every medical student completing a minimum of seven years of training in the clinical aspects of medicine, surely there is time to learn the basics of business management and how it pertains to healthcare.
- Viswanathan, Vidya. “The Rise of the M.D./M.B.A. Degree.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 29 Sept. 2014.