Today’s physicians are tasked with countless responsibilities each day, many of which go far beyond patient care. Physicians are doing more with less, as they face decreased reimbursements and increased costs. Ann Marie Nelson, DO, MBA’15, knew she needed business skills in order to balance the various competing needs of clinical practice.
“I’d been in clinical practice for 15 years, and I did not have the skills I needed to improve my work processes,” she said. “I knew how to treat a patient, and I knew medicine and the day-to-day practice — then layer in the ability to grasp the rules of narrow networks and electronic medical records — all in a market where I had to increase my productivity. I didn’t know how I’d manage to do all this and still retain any work-life balance.”
At that time, Dr. Nelson was medical director of a physician group and also had a busy clinical practice. She realized she needed business capabilities to master the declining resources and increased work demands. She decided to earn her MBA through the Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
“I went into the program with the idea that I was going to make a change,” she said. “I graduated and decided to make a huge change.”
Shortly after graduating, Dr. Nelson became a medical advisor at Eli Lilly and Company. She currently works in medical affairs supporting customer information quality and clinical innovation strategies. “I’ve absolutely loved this new role,” she said. “I now have a job I enjoy immensely — I can’t believe I get paid to do it. I use my experience as a physician, combined with all my experiences from the MBA program, to achieve my objectives.”
Dr. Nelson was among the first cohort of physician MBA students to graduate from the program. During her studies, she took advantage of a variety of healthcare offerings in the program, including learning about international healthcare models through the global study courses that traveled to India, Prague and Germany. She also learned important business principles in accounting and finance.
“I learned there’s always more than one side of the equation in a business decision, and this program teaches you to consider all of them,” she said. “I’d already gained distinct perspectives of clinical practice (dealing with insurance companies and knowing what to say and how to say it) and also as a manager of a clinic (deciding how to evaluate proceeding with a new project). I now feel comfortable considering all sides more deeply.”
The process improvement skills she gained during Lean Six Sigma training stand out among the greatest returns on her investment in the program. Not only is she armed with valuable skills in cost estimating and goal setting, but also new negotiation skills.
“I negotiated every day as a physician — with my staff, payers, patients,” she said. “Through my degree, I’ve improved my ability to negotiate, to truly articulate my needs and to ask better questions about what the other side needs in order to reach an agreement.”
Marketing is another business proficiency Dr. Nelson gained during her studies. “There’s so much marketing aimed at medicine,” she said. “After my marketing class, I’m able to understand why I’ve been targeted with specific messaging. Also, I now consider what my online presence looks like. Initially, I avoided social media, but I now find myself following medical issues on Twitter and staying current on what people are discussing online because it pertains to me. I’ve gained a lot of perspective through this training.”
By completing relevant, healthcare-focused business coursework and one-on-one executive coaching to identify personal strengths, Dr. Nelson says she and her physician classmates are now stronger leaders in their medical communities.
“You will come out of the Kelley Physician MBA program as a leader because you will have a much broader understanding of healthcare than most people in the room,” she said. “Because of this new skill set, you can offer new ideas and better address the issues you see in clinical medicine.”
Based on her education and executive training, Dr. Nelson realized how broad the options are for physician leaders. She went from healthcare administration to the pharmaceutical industry; another classmate went from clinical care to entrepreneurship—all with the consultation, support and feedback from expert business faculty at Kelley.
“We’re all facing the same challenges in healthcare; we just have to put our heads together and determine how to solve each problem. A lot of what’s within this MBA curriculum –marketing, operations, management – is helping you to solve problems broadly across healthcare industries.”
Overall, Dr. Nelson feels she achieved her original goal for earning an MBA: to master the balance of growing demands and diminished resources.
“This program clearly and absolutely helped me get to where I wanted to be, and that was taking control and making decisions toward my goals,” she said. “Part of my issue was the lack of work-life balance. The business skill set helped me achieve balance, and I know I have the ability to do something about it.”