For some physicians, gaining a greater sense of the business behind the medicine is helpful to attract more business. For others, an MBA through the Indiana University Kelley School of Business helps them better manage their existing case load.
Praveen Rajanahalli, MD, MBA’16, was facing the latter issue in the family medicine practice where he was providing care in Greenwood, Indiana, when the patient case load “exploded” in 2009.
A native of India who spoke four dialects, Dr. Rajanahalli was becoming incredibly popular among the estimated 30,000 Indian-Americans living on the south side of Indianapolis.
“There was no way for me to control that volume and I began to experience a great deal of burnout,” he said. “I enjoyed my job very much. It was rewarding to see these patients getting better, but burnout will catch up with you eventually. Plus, every year, new laws added a new requirement, a new box to check on the electronic medical record, or a new process that took up more of my limited time. The more time I spent in front of the computer, the less time I spent with a patient.”
Along with the growing demands of ever-increasing physician responsibilities, Dr. Rajanahalli also felt like his medical expertise was often superseded by the computer and by insurance systems.
“When you fax a prescription to the pharmacy, they suggest a more cost-effective medication that may not even work. Ordering an MRI or ultrasound required time-intensive prior authorization,” he said.
Frustration built slowly as Dr. Rajanahalli, like many physicians, spent less time with patients, which affected patient satisfaction.
“I thought, what can I do to improve patient experience and treatment?”
Rajanahalli was looking for a way to create this balance, when another physician suggested he consider complementing his excellent patient communication skills with management skills gained from an MBA. With a greater ability to manage high-volumes of patients, perhaps Rajanahalli could approach medicine in a new way that avoided the frustrations and burnout. With the support of his senior leadership, Dr. Rajanahalli researched his options and discovered that the Kelley School of Business was located a short, 20-minute drive away and focused exclusively on physicians.
“I wanted a physician-only program because we think alike, we can understand each other’s challenges and specialties, and we’re able to provide more nuanced advice to one another,” he said. “If it were a class full of engineers, we may not as easily connect to the same shared perspective.”
During the Kelley Physician MBA program, Rajanahalli completed several group projects while working alongside physicians from all over the country, solving problems that crossed both specialty and organization type. As Rajanahalli shared his own practice challenges with his classmates, one of them suggested he consider offering “concierge” medicine—also known as retainer medicine—as a means for alleviating physician burnout.
“These other physicians really challenged me to think outside the box,” he said. “I began researching this concept of concierge medicine and explored it during a project in my last semester in the program, working out some concrete ideas about concierge medicine. I was able to bounce ideas off my classmates to understand what mistakes to avoid.”
During his last semester in the MBA program, Dr. Rajanahalli was organizing plans to start his own concierge practice. Classmates helped him firm up the details of his business plan, and he employed practical lessons from his MBA courses as he worked with pharmacy companies, licensing attorneys, and real estate brokers.
“Through her marketing classes, Professor Kim Saxton explained how to select a location for my new practice,” he said. “I used all that knowledge to obtain a viable lease on a location that would help me grow. I graduated with my MBA in August, signed the contract for the new office in December, and a couple months later, set up the practice. We opened the doors to our first patient on March 1, 2017.”
In his concierge practice, Supro Direct in Greenwood, Indiana, Dr. Rajanahalli offers a limited number of patients an annual membership to his family medicine practice. Two physicians and two medical assistants provide patients personalized, wraparound services – all in house with 24/7 access to a physician.
“Everyone is treated like a VIP,” he said. “We don’t look at a patient as a number but as a person. We personalize the care without just writing out a prescription. We provide pain management services with advanced cold laser systems and platelet-rich plasma injections. We spend a lot of time with the patient and also provide basic laboratory testing in-house with an imaging center in the same building so it’s convenient and patients don’t have to make multiple trips. Our wait time is less than 10 minutes and we’ve created an environment that feels more like a spa than a doctor’s office. Patients tell us they’ve never experienced a medical facility like this. It makes us different.”
As the president of Supro Direct, Dr. Rajanahalli says he uses the skills in enhanced leadership he gained from his MBA every day. Through guest speakers and class visitors the Kelley Physician MBA program provided, he gained a variety approaches to leadership that have inspired him as he continues to build his practice.
“Bill Chapman [CEO of Barry-Wehmiller] led an amazing discussion at one of our alumni weekends and I use many of those concepts and strategies today. I can see a change already,” said Dr. Rajanahalli. “If a speaker or classmate mentions trying something that worked great for them, I see value in trying it, too. I keep my class notes and videos handy to help me continue to grow my leadership capabilities, and the best part is that it’s actually working!”
Dr. Rajanahalli continues to hone his administrative skills as he manages the finances of his new practice. He acknowledges that he’s still learning as he goes on the administrative side of things, but that the patient side of his work is completely different – his patients’ experience is completely different. Instead of less time with their physician, they have more one-on-one care.
“It’ll probably take me the first year of this practice to get the hang of administration and become more efficient at it, but that burnout I used to feel as a clinician is gone. This is truly enjoyable work,” he said. “You don’t simply become an expert in business as a result of your MBA classes – you have to experiment with the lessons and you must make mistakes. This degree gave me the confidence to change my pathway of practicing medicine.”
“I’ve truly achieved my goals as a physician because of the lessons I gained.”