Careers for physicians in business and management consulting

Feb 26, 2018

Business savvy physicians who have a general interest in influencing medicine from a more global scale may be interested in working in business consulting or practice management positions. There are a number of global firms working to improve healthcare that seek to hire physicians to serve as consultants to their clients. Working as consultant, brainstorming and helping to provide solutions that help shape the entire healthcare system – versus on the individual level one-on-one with patients – is very desirable for a physician for a who likes to look at the forest instead of the trees.

For those that are frustrated with the state of the healthcare system and looking to help drive institutional changes, consulting with hospitals, government organizations, or independent companies can be rewarding work. Physicians are crucial thought leaders when it comes to implementing system-wide improvements, and businesses recognize the need for physician consultants to be leaders and champions in order to achieve better outcomes and returns on investment.

Practice Management/On-Site Consulting

Data & Analytics

Example Duties

▪ Facilitate medical group culture and physician support

▪ Improve workflow processes

▪ Work to improve patient access and satisfaction

▪ Optimize the use of information technology and transitions

▪ Gather and analyze necessary data and analytics to make informed decisions regarding consulting clients

▪ Perform market research

▪ Strategize increased revenue streams for the practice

Example Employers

▪ Hospitals

▪ Large consulting firms

▪ Insurers

▪ Government

▪ Large consulting firms

Job Responsibilities

Physician roles and responsibilities in the field of business consulting can include positions in practice management, data and analytics, or in particular industries such as medical device or pharmaceutical.

Various job responsibilities may include:

  • Facilitating medical group culture and physician support
  • Working to improve patient access and satisfaction
  • Optimizing information technology and transitions
  • Improving organizational structure to support employees and growth
  • Strategizing increased revenue streams for the practice
  • Performing market research
  • Providing consulting services for billing and coding, such as ICD-10 implementation
  • Gathering and analyzing necessary data and analytics to make informed decisions for clients
  • Improving workflow processes

Work Environment and Schedule

Physician business consultants can often work long hours ‘in the field.’ They may be required to travel to clinics or hospitals to provide on-site consulting services for several (often lengthy) days per week. Team structure is more valued in consulting than in a hierarchical system, but ultimately pleasing the client takes precedent and can lead to stressful situations. Physicians tackle new challenges and industries, and can feel a sense of pride when clients are satisfied with the work completed.

Those who enjoy travel, being mentally challenged, and consider themselves adaptable will enjoy the variety of work environments that consulting provides. One month a consultant could be on-site working with a hospital on new leadership takeover or a merger, and the next they could be working with another client on a project to implement new healthcare software and analytics. For early-career physicians who do not mind the travel requirements and have a desire to work within the many different areas of healthcare innovation, they may particularly enjoy this position.

For physicians who prefer less travel and more predictable work, performing research in data and analytics to provide recommendations and assist on-site consultants may be an alternative. Teamwork is still involved (of course!) and travel may be required to present findings and recommendations to clients, but these consultants may not be required to remain on-site through the duration of the project. More established physicians or those with families may find the schedule of an on-site practice management-type consultant position difficult to accustom to. Positions in data and analytics or moving into consulting management positions may better suit their needs.

Required Skills and Training

Consulting firms will often hire newly minted and mid-career physicians, so extensive clinical experience or licensure is typically not required. Many forms are generally more concerned with familiarity with the healthcare system, and critical thinking skills, and communication ability. Some firms offer formal programs for physicians to get their feet wet in the consulting  industry.

Required skills include:

  • Problem solving skills
  • Adaptability to unfamiliar situations
  • Great communication and teamwork skills
  • Flexible and client-oriented
  • Willingness to travel

Residency, Licensure, and Training Requirements

Board certification and licensure are often not required.

Is This a Career for You?

Physicians that enjoy problem solving, traveling, and interacting with a wide range of other professionals will likely find business consulting a rewarding career. The variety of clinical management and tasks they are asked to consult on can provide a stimulating work environment. Physicians who are comfortable hitting the ground running, can come up with solutions or make adjustments on the fly, are great communicators, and can put plans into action will do well in on-site business consulting positions. Physicians in fields such as emergency medicine, family medicine, or other fields in which they routinely have to switch among a variety of tasks, deal with resource allocation, and “put out fires” may find fulfillment in the hands-on problem-solving side of business consulting.

Those who prefer consistent, stable work, with little travel, and prefer to work alone will likely not enjoy this line of work. It requires extensive teamwork, flexibility with travel arrangements, trial and error, and comfort working in unfamiliar situations. Physicians more established in their careers or with family obligations may find the travel schedule not ideal for the lifestyle they wish to lead.

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