Let’s Talk Business in Radiology

September 5, 2016

Managing finances in radiology.

Disclaimer: Opinions are entirely my own. I was sponsored by AMA Insurance to attend the 2016 Financial Summit.

Getting that first paycheck from residency was sweet. To many of us, it is our first job...first REAL job. Serving tables in a restaurant and work-study in laboratories just don’t cut it. When I finally got my newly minted piece of paper, what did I do? I kissed the sweet fruit of cheap labor and then spent the whole thing paying bills for the big move to Boston. Practical things first, right?

When it comes to spending versus saving, we’re in a big hole. Physician finances are a mess, everyone knows that. We went to school for science, not for business, and unless an individual is particularly interested in the topic or has their back against a wall, we do not have regular conversations about personal finances. Some institutions are changing the stasis of cluelessness into a dynamic of self-education to improve both personal and professional decisions.

Johns Hopkins University has set up a Business of Healthcare Grand Rounds as a collaborative with the Carey School of Business open to all residents. Brigham and Women’s radiology residency program has integrated multiple tracks into the resident lecture series featuring a financial education theme, and the opportunity to develop business acumen further with a mini-fellowship or research project. In fact, one of the five longitudinal tracks that trainees can choose from includes a business-of-medicine focus.

Beyond integration, there are additional opportunities to obtain further expertise through separate full degrees. In fact, the number of joint MD/MBA programs in America has increased from 6 to 65 in twenty years. Part of the motivation is a heightened awareness of the importance of business acumen in health care management. Another push comes from the industry side. A study in 2011 showed that hospitals run by physician CEOs outperformed those with non-medical leadership. Findings from this and other studies prompted interest in hiring more MDs in leadership and management positions. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"51601","attributes":{"alt":"Finances in radiology","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_3642169903435","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6362","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 170px; width: 170px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©cmgirl/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

The opportunity for business skills to enhance development has been highlighted by the industry’s recent struggles with market pressures, shifting regulatory regulations, and value-based reimbursement. It is becoming more obvious that the less involvement from MDs, the more professionals - and health care infrastructure in general - are at the mercy of the economy.

Additional enrichment comes from seminars and conferences offered in increasing number to physicians. Although one can read about financial basics from online sources, in-person conferences spark conversation and create additional networking opportunities. In the realm of personal finance, American Medical Association Insurance, for example, is offering the opportunity to speak with a wide range of specialists in an annual physician financial summit. I had the privilege of attending the May 2016 conference, which was hugely insightful. The density of knowledge presented and the opportunity to seek advice from physicians at various stages of their career was invaluable.

Overall, the trend towards increased business acumen in medicine is helping physicians at all levels of experience to become better stewards of both their personal and professional finance. No matter what route is taken – self-education, seminars, lectures, or national conferences - the key is to have integrated conversations regarding smart financial decisions as a part of our best practices.