The future of health management

Medical school does a wonderful job of preparing physicians to cure disease and save lives. What it doesn’t do well is prepare physicians to be good managers.

The same skills that it takes to be a business leader — motivating teams, understanding financial information, thinking strategically and making data-driven decisions — also matter to medical professionals. And this only becomes truer as they rise through the ranks.

Unfortunately, these topics aren’t taught in medical school. As a result, there is a skills gap, and this gap is occurring at precisely the wrong moment, a time of tremendous tumult and uncertainty in health care.

Bridge the gap

Higher education institutions are increasingly stepping up to help bridge the gap of this knowledge divide. Many universities have tremendous reserves of intellectual capital both in the health sciences and business analytics. The problem is these two units rarely work together.

The creation of innovative partnerships can yield new programs that help educate physicians and other professionals in health management. At the University of Pittsburgh, our business school has partnered with Pitt’s schools of pharmacy, public health and social work to offer joint programs, and this month we’re launching an Executive MBA in Healthcare program in affiliation with UPMC.

We know these academic programs work. For the past 10 years, I have led management-training programs that have connected physicians at UPMC and health professionals from other organizations with faculty from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

The value of these interactions cannot be overstated. It is incredible to watch the transformation of brilliant minds in medicine as they synthesize business analytics to address real issues in their organizations.

Business education value

I believe several areas of business education can greatly enhance the practice and delivery of health care, leading to positive outcomes for all through:

  • Wider use of analytics — Statistical analysis is embraced in medical research, and likewise a greater focus on business analytics can be used to make process improvements in health systems to enhance quality, efficiency and effectiveness for patients.
  • Embrace of core business skills — Important managerial skills are often overlooked in medical school. These business functions include human resources, marketing, supply chain management, accounting and finance.
  • Change in perspective — Ultimately, this shift in thinking will require medical professionals to see themselves differently. They will still be responsible for treating patients and achieving positive health outcomes. Their roles as physician leaders will help them do that even better.

The goal of this business-enhanced approach is to help doctors become better managers and thus better healers. In turn, this will strengthen our health system and better serve our patients. This is what the health system of the future looks like.


Carrie Leana, Ph.D. is the Academic Director of the Katz-UPMC Executive MBA in Healthcare Program; the Director of the Center for Healthcare Management; and the George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management, at the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration.