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Business Principles That Physicians Don't Know

Business Principles That Physicians Don't Know

I have known for some time that physicians face a number of challenges. They enter the field of medicine with a goal of helping others and then find themselves involved in a career that demands so much of their time and energy.

Medical school and internships require huge financial and time investments. Often sleep is caught in very short naps between rotations.

Then it is time to open a practice and the costs for doing so can be almost overwhelming. As a result, physicians take on as many patients and hospital shifts as possible to try to survive!

And, over time, the practice is established. There is staff in place, facilities and equipment that are necessary and routine. Unfortunately, the routine is often one that leaves the physician feeling "trapped." When the doctor is away from the office the expenses continue but the income is not there until s/he returns. It is difficult to find other locums to see the patients. Freedom seems like a distant dream.

The cheques arrive and although they might seem to be larger than one might have expected at the beginning of the practice, by the time that everything is paid, there doesn't seem to be a way to reduce work hours or gain relief from the demanding routine other than to sell the practice.

But that would mean giving up helping people - the motivation that started the whole adventure.

So often I see physicians who present with a diagnosis of depression. What really seems to be the problem, however, is a feeling of being overwhelmed.

You see, many physicians are so devoted to doing their work that they really don't understand the business aspects of their practice. They are afraid that if they slow down or quit, they will be caught in a situation where they cannot survive. This is because they really don't have a global picture of their entire organization or the expertise to identify areas that could be improved.

When I lead them through the maze and help them to reorganize the system, I see their eyes light up again and the hope that had been lost return with renewed vigor.

You see, often physicians work harder in the business than on the business. But when they have someone help them to invest a few hours in strategic planning, they can approach things in a different way - a way that opens the pathway to reaching goals.

Sometimes it is about freedom. Sometimes it's about being able to pursue the career situation of choice. And sometimes it is about having the profit that is needed in order to provide some coveted freedom.

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About the Author

Dr. Hancock has written a regular weekly column entitled “All Psyched Up” for newspapers in two Canadian provinces for more than a dozen years...