Business Education for Busy Physicians

March 27, 2012

Here's how physicians can acquire executive-level knowledge on complex issues in a time- and cost-efficient way.

Much of our recent discussion here and coverage in the popular media has centered around business issues currently faced by doctors and often missing from their education. We’ve covered issues like what kind of team members you need, provided lists of specific business and legal planning, and coached you on management issues. As a result, some of my recent correspondence with readers has included questions about how doctors can acquire executive-level knowledge on these complex business issues in a time- and cost-efficient way.

I’m not suggesting that you obtain a professional-level education on any of these issues, just a general understanding of the rules and options available to your practice. While we have strongly encouraged the delegation of some issues to specialized professionals, the responsibility is ultimately always yours. Being able to ask the right questions is often as important as being able to provide the right answers.

Below, I list a number of specific shortcuts and sources of reliable information which will allow you to identify the issues and the advisors you need to solve them going forward.

Legal Education

Medical practitioners today face a variety of legal exposures from employment law to HIPAA compliance and are more regulated than ever before. Having one or more members of your organization well-versed in the basic concepts behind major legal issues is a great way to reduce costs and liability. I suggest my clients consider education on areas of the law including healthcare, employment, Medicare/Medicaid, and even the basics of contract law so they know when they’ve adequately made or accepted an offer or created a duty to perform.

The bar associations of nearly every state (along with many law schools and law firms) offer comprehensive continuing legal education to their members. Many of these continuing education classes are open to accountants and other advisors, as well as the public at large. These courses span a wide range of legal skill and exposure and typically include “100 level” introductory level courses suitable for you or your management team. Many of these courses are one hour to three hours in length, are typically $300 or less, and include detailed written materials, examples, case law, and local resources. I have personally recommended and attended specific classes with my own clients when I felt the information was at an appropriate level and that the presentation was vital to the continuing function of their business. Two top national resources of paid seminars include Lorman Education Services and The National Business Institute. Check their websites for live or on-demand courses.

Accounting

Most localities have a “society” of CPAs or some similar trade organization that provides similar educational resources on a variety of financial topics. Essential courses include “how to read a financial statement,” “basic business taxation,” and courses related to income tax planning.

Likewise, the Small Business Administration and both state and community colleges typically have evening seminar courses by local experts and professors, some specifically structured for small business owners and their common issues. I’ve also seen an increase in the number of free seminars offered by accounting firms themselves and have had excellent feedback from clients who’ve attended courses offered by McGladrey and other top national accounting firms.

Operations

Practice management groups vary widely in the services provided and the level of skill at which those services are delivered. It has been my privilege to work with the clients of many of the best management groups in the country. The best were a harmonious blend of both clinical and practical solutions and provided a variety of business, legal, management, and financial guidance. Many of these organizations provide free access to archives of information as well as a list of qualified professional resources and regular e-mail newsletter updates.

Online Physician Resources

Resources like Physicians Practice provide well-vetted and regularly updated information from experts at a surprisingly high level of skill. Of course, information presented in these formats is done so in the most general terms and is meant to help you identify specifics to address with your own counsel.

I personally subscribe to a dozen medical intelligence resources spanning different practices and viewpoints (legal, accounting, compliance) so I can be aware of exposures and opportunities to my clients. They are easy to digest and skim by topic and are updated daily. Part of this should include some basic crash course on HR management and should be supported by regular updates on best practices and changes in the law.

Find out more about Ike Devji and our other Practice Notes bloggers.