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Medical Practice as a Socially Responsible Business

Posted Dec 20 2008 7:14pm

I have searched for a way to describe my view of medicine as a business.  I finally realized that the practice of medicine should be classified as a socially responsible business.   “Who cares?”, you say.  Well, I say  we all should care.   We went into medicine to help people.  However, as I am fond of saying, we can’t help people if we don’t keep the doors open.  We need to have a way to do both.

So how to reconcile the two visions?  We have the altruistic Norman Rockwell picture of the benevolent physician examining a young girl’s doll directly opposing today’s appointment packed, hyper regulated, law suit filled world.  I propose we view our practices as socially responsible businesses.  So what does this mean?

  1. Owners of socially responsible businesses realize that making money is important.  Practices need to stay in business, pay their employees a competitive wage and make a decent living for the physician owners.
  2. Owners of socially responsible businesses realize that as a practice grows, non-financial benefits grow.  You CAN see patients who can’t afford to pay, or can only afford to pay a little if your medical practice/business is financially fit.
  3. Owners of socially responsible businesses realize that non-financial benefits have financial costs.  The socially responsible business may have to absorb higher costs and accept smaller profits.  NOTE: I didn’t say run the business as a charity!  By definition a business is NOT a charity!
  4. The socially responsible businesses/medical practice has at it’s core a mission to provide quality health care AND stay in business.  The two are NOT mutually exclusive, but must intertwine and co-exist.  One must feed the other.
  5. Government intervention and big business are not appropriate business models for socially responsible medical practice/businesses.  Physician owners must start from the ground up and build a profitable, socially responsible business model that DOES NOT involve government intervention.  Additionally, the typical frenzied profit taking by big businesses is not an appropriate model either.
  6. The socially responsible business/medical practice must seek efficiencies where ever possible.  Creativity is a core value of the socially responsible medical practice/business.
  7. The socially responsible business/medical practice avoids “short termism” and “poor governance and regulation, misaligned compensation and incentive systems, lack of transparency, … poor leadership and a dysfunctional business culture.”  (Quote from Al Gore, http://www.careerjournal.com/article/SB122584367114799137.html )  This means that the physician owner is in the medical business for the long haul, and has a clear vision as to where the socially responsible medical business/practice should go.  It means the physician must learn HOW businesses operate, and how to manage the practice in a long term sustainable fashion.
  8. The socially responsible business/medical practice behaves as if people and place matter, because they do.
  9. The socially responsible business/medical practice believes that time is money.  Therefore, it doesn’t waste the time of patients or physicians.
  10. The socially responsible business/medical practice embraces technology, but realizes that government mandates to REQUIRE technology will drive the socially responsible medical practice/business OUT of business.

For more resources and thoughts on the socially resonsible business of medicine, see www.bcorporation.net   View the declaration of independence on “b corporations” at:  http://www.bcorporation.net/index.cfm/fuseaction/content.page/nodeID/9e7f627c-48   See also Ode Magazine, December 2008, pages 21-25.)  This issue is not yet available on line, but website is www.odemagazine.com.  I have no alliance with the B Corporation.net, or Ode Magazine.

      
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