by jantzl on November 21, 2019

Last week, Andy and I had dinner with a group of MD MBA students, which is to say, doctors, pursuing an MBA degree. It occurred to us, listening to their concerns and hopes for medicine, their colleagues, and the future, that these physician leaders are our hope for better healthcare.

When I first met the physician who introduced me to this group, one of the first things she said to me is that less than 10% of all healthcare systems are physician-run. This struck me as a fundamental problem. I'm not a physician so the best way I can illustrate it is with my own experience. Over my career as a software developer, I have worked at technology companies led by technologists and companies led by business people, with no experience relevant to the core competency of the organization. By far the best organizations to be a part of were those led by technologists - not because technologists are great leaders, but because they had relevant experience to apply to their leadership, relevant experience to the core mission of the organization. The other companies were less pleasant and less successful. I'm not the only one who thinks this.

Now, this is anecdotal, it doesn't necessarily reflect the state of healthcare, but it is a theory that can be tested. Does relevant, direct frontline experience make a difference? Looking online for information, we did find several articles from a few years back. The best article that we found supported this theory with some evidence and does a great job of explaining how and why the results are better. We did find one study that reached the opposite conclusion. And there was also this exciting piece about a return to physician-run practice, which we'd love to see a lot more of. But other than that, not a lot of discussion about the need for more physician leadership of our healthcare organizations.

Why are we not seeing more physician executives of healthcare organizations? Is hospital consolidation really reversing back to physician-run practice? The physician MBA program appears to be a trend that is growing. Are these doctors going into healthcare leadership or exiting into entrepreneurship (aka doctor-preneurship)? We will make it a project in the coming weeks to learn more.