Doctors seek MBA's to grapple with health care reform

Doctors used to focus on one thing: practicing medicine. But these days, it pays to know something about business. As health care reform starts upending the economics of medicine, the Kelley School -- a top-20 MBA program, based in Indiana – is looking to cash in by launching an online MBA for just doctors.

If an online MBA doesn't sound legit, check out the price tag on Kelley's two-year program: $58,000. That doesn’t include hotel or airfare to Indianapolis, for monthly in-person sessions.

The program takes 40 students. Doctor Anthony Sabatino enrolled to ease his uncertainty.

“Obamacare scares me. What's going to be the long-term effects after 2014 when it's implemented?" he says.

Sabatino is an anesthesiologist who performs a couple thousand spinal procedures a year. He says the Affordable Care Act is shifting the business model he’s long known -- from payment for services, to payments based on outcomes like how well patients recover.

"I think it's going to affect everyone's practices,” Sabatino says, “I mean, how do you determine quality?”

During a recent online info session for the new Kelley program, faculty chair Vicki Smith-Daniels reels off a course for every concern.

"One of the first classes that you're going to be taking is called health care revenue and delivery models -- talking about changing reimbursement models that are more risk-based, to ones that are more value based," she says.

Another course teaches how to turn electronic medical records into Big Data that can make practices leaner; and another coaches doctors on how to open a dialogue with hospitals, to reduce patient readmission rates. 

Smith-Daniels says doctors can take the online course even when there’s no Internet connection, say in a hospital lounge.

"iTunes University will allow you to download those materials on a weekly basis onto your iPad," she says.

Kelley isn't the only MBA program migrating to the Internet. Robert Lytle, a consultant with the Parthenon Group, points out Carnegie Mellon, Duke, and Johns Hopkins are doing it too.

“When you start to see top-ranked institutions out there offering either fully online or kind of hybrid partially online programs,” Lytle says, “it continues to lend more and more credibility to the modality."

And who knows, with more doctor MBA's in the mix, your physician may soon be able to explain your ailment, and your bill. 

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