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Sensing Savvy

Doctors Need More Than Clinical Expertise to Succeed

Posted by Roger DeLong, CP, PE, MBA on Aug 28, 2017 7:45:00 AM

clinical expertise As a physician, you’ve spent years mastering your abilities. With all that training, you should have all the skills you need to secure — and perform well at — a job, right? Not necessarily. A recent survey from LinkedIn found that many medical school students don’t always have the skills they need to succeed in the rapidly evolving and heavily competitive healthcare job market.

Clinical Expertise Isn’t Enough

What’s missing? Many physicians said they’re not prepared for the business side of medicine or the possibilities that exist for them beyond patient care.

Seventy-five percent of physicians surveyed said the rapid and deep changes in healthcare make non-clinical skills even more important. In addition to business and finance skills, survey participants indicated they thought skills in the following areas were necessary to take their careers to the next level:

  • Productivity and practice management
  • Computer and technology skills
  • Hospital administration
  • Research
  • Telemedicine
  • Sales, marketing and branding


What’s Changing and Why

The healthcare landscape is rapidly evolving, but so is the role of the physician. Today, physicians are expected to manage patients with chronic and critical diseases, improve patient and staff satisfaction, manage practices and collaborate with peers.

In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Robert Pearl and Alexander Fogel wrote:

“...Graduating students still lack the fundamental business and leadership training needed to effect the changes required and simultaneously maximize quality and reduce cost in clinical practice.”

“Regardless of whether future physicians decide to work in a large health care system or solo practice, they will need fundamental knowledge and skills in three key business disciplines: leadership, teamwork, and data analytics.”

What can be done about the skills gap? Pearl and Fogel suggest medical schools take advantage of nearby business schools. They propose that the two schools work together to develop an interdisciplinary four-week clinical rotation that would allow medical students to identify and solve real problems facing the medical school’s hospitals or other medical facilities.

How Physicians Can Learn Addition Non-clinical Skills

Take a class: If you have the time, enroll in a business class at your local university or community college. Many physician leaders also earn their MBAs. An MBA can give you the business and financial training you need as well as help you develop leadership skills, if you wish to become a physician leader.

Network: If you don’t have the time to attend a class or two, try attending a business networking event. Doing so can connect you with professionals who can provide you with additional advice and insight. Look for local chapters of the American Marketing Association, Healthcare Business Association or the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

Get a part-time job: If you’re a busy physician, this might seem impossible. But if you’re a medical student, or if you can find the time to get a part-time job, try a non-healthcare one. Dr. Derek Raghavan learned a wealth of helpful non-clinical skills by being a cab driver while he was in medical school.

What do you think? Is there a non-clinical skills gap in medicine? If so, how should that be addressed? Tell us in the comments below.

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Topics: cardiothoracic surgery