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MBA for Physicians: How Healthcare Informatics Helped a Doctor Succeed

MBA for Physician Thomas Scott '15

You may have thought that after four years of undergraduate work, then medical school followed by a four-year medical residency, physician Thomas Scott '15 would have had enough of classrooms, textbooks and final papers. But when Scott first found himself moving up the ranks of a regional medical center's administrative team and then heading a series of urgent-care centers, he realized he needed to learn the language of business. Getting an MBA degree helped Scott develop the business skills he needed to get ahead.

"As I got further along in my professional career I realized the need for more education," Scott said. "I didn't think about it until I was far into the administrative part thinking the people sitting in front of me were speaking a language that I didn't. That's when I realized I needed to go back (to school) and learn it. I need to understand what these people were saying if I wanted to work forward."

Scott began his medical career as a resident at a New Jersey hospital before moving to southern New England and working as an attending physician at Parkland Medical Center in Derry, N.H. He spent 15 years at the hospital, eventually becoming the EMS medical director, emergency room medical director and then the regional medical director for Parkland as well as the nearby Portsmouth Regional Medical Center. As Scott was promoted up the ranks in healthcare management, he moved further away from treating patients in a clinical setting and more often found himself in conference rooms with the rest of the hospital's, mostly formally business-trained, administrators. "Which is when I realized I needed to get a business degree because a lot of the time I found myself sitting in meetings and not talking about medical stuff at all," Scott said.

MBA Concentrations for Physicians

Having decided he needed to earn his MBA, Scott chose a concentration that made most sense for him; in this case, healthcare informatics.

Thanks in large part to changes in healthcare technology along with changes to the industry's regulations and laws, including the Affordable Care Act, an MBA in Healthcare Informatics is becoming ever more essential for many positions in healthcare. This is particularly true for those in administrative or upper-level management positions, including physicians. An education in Healthcare informatics helps students gain a better understanding of healthcare and information technology and how healthcare data systems mesh with systems that physicians rely on to improve patient health.

Healthcare informatics is a rapidly growing industry and may lead to positions like systems engineer, project manager or consultant. Because of an increased focus on the use of electronic health records, hospitals need more help getting, storing and using health information. Scott said as a manager, he needed a better understanding of that process. He said the healthcare informatics concentration was the right choice because it allowed him to understand the clinical and business interests in the digitization of medical and billing records.

Other MBA concentrations for physicians to consider include healthcare management, human resources and project management, just to name a few. Concentrations are based on MBA program-wide foundation courses, such as economics for business, business law and government impact on business that are designed to give students well-rounded business knowledge and the ability to swiftly adapt to change, design financially-sound business strategies and be able to solve complex problems.

Flexible Enough for Even the Busiest Professional

One of the strengths of pursuing an online MBA program in addition to its flexibility are the instructors who have extensive business experience, along with a diverse student body for you to interact with in the online environment. Courses have been designed to be immediately applicable to real-world scenarios, which gives you the flexibility to tailor your program based on your interests and industry.

As a working physician, earning an MBA at a brick-and-mortar school was not possible. Scott knew immediately he needed to find an online university. "All the research I did said go to SNHU (Southern New Hampshire University)," Scott said. Beyond the reputation he found through his research, the quality of SNHU's online MBA program was very attractive, as was the way he could choose courses within the program that fit his already demanding schedule. "One of the things that kept jumping out to me every time I read about it was ... the quality of learning you would get there, as well as the ability to pick classes that fit your schedule," Scott said. "As a practicing physician, (it) was exactly what I was looking for. The letters after my name weren't as important. I need the information."

Scott said the level of support from many of his instructors, as well as his academic advisor, was key to his success. Since many of the courses were well outside his area of expertise, particularly courses like Accounting and Financial Management and Mathematics and Statistics for Business, the fact that nearly all of the questions he sent to instructors were returned the same day was a factor that Scott called "beyond supportive." His academic advisor called regularly to check-in, talk about upcoming assignments and the next courses he should sign up for. "The program was great," Scott said. "I mean, I won't lie to you. It was hard. There's no doubt about that. It was surprisingly difficult but completely manageable. There was tons of support."

Now the education he got through the online MBA degree is more useful than ever, Scott said. While working toward his MBA in Healthcare Informatics, Scott became friends with the owner of ClearChoiceMD, a collection of urgent care walk-in clinics throughout northern New England and based in New London, N.H. By the time the company opened a clinic in Portsmouth, Scott had become the director of clinical operations for all 10 clinics in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Because ClearChoice is physician-owned and has only a small team of administrators, Scott routinely relies on the knowledge and skills he honed from his MBA. "A lot of my MBA comes into play because we have a lot of decisions to make and we're not a giant corporation with people telling us what to do," Scott said. In particular, creating budgets for the clinics is no longer a mysterious process, he said. "It all makes perfect sense to me now," he said.

Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter @JoeCo2323.

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