AR: Business ed course ranks high with radiology residents

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As healthcare policies and institutions begin a dramatic transition in the U.S., the University of Indiana School of Medicine has begun offering its radiology residents a business school elective course, aimed at training physicians in leadership as well as practice and department management, as reported in a study published online in Academic Radiology.

“Many radiology residents receive innumerable hours of formal instruction in how to detect lesions, develop differential diagnoses and make recommendations for appropriate imaging but relatively few hours on the business aspects of radiology practice. Yet the future of radiology hinges in part on how well today’s radiology residents are prepared to tackle the management and leadership challenges that arise in the future,” wrote Richard B. Gunderman, MD, PhD, and Alexander M. Tawadros, MD, both from the department of radiology at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. Tawadros is also a departmental resident that completed the course.

The authors cited changing payment schemes, new models for organizing healthcare and changing relationships between radiologists and patients, referring physicians, hospitals and payors as key factors that influenced the development of the course.

Fifteen of the department’s 58 residents enrolled in the Business for Physicians class, which was taught by faculty of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Residents received two credits for the course and could apply these credits to an MBA program if desired. Using education funds allotted to the residency program, the course was made available to all students with no out-of-pocket costs.

The course was divided into several sections, including strategy and leadership, marketing, financial analysis, operations management and an integrative case session. Course instruction consisted of lectures, case discussions, projects and group work.

According to the authors, the course aimed “to provide an overview of business administration for resident physicians, assuming that learners have no prior business coursework but a high level of academic ability.” All students offered course feedback via an end-of-term survey evaluation graded on a seven-point Likert-type scale, with responses ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7).

All students agreed that the course was relevant to their future practice, providing an average ranking of 5.0. Students tended to strongly agree that business school faculty added value to the course, yielding a score of 6.7.

Residents did not report substantial resistance among clinicians to their enrolling in the course, which took away two hours of normal resident classroom education every two weeks. Nor did the residents believe that the course interfered with their clinical radiology education.

Students rated the value of the course for residents of other programs at 5.6 out of 7, while offering a score of 5.8 to indicate the strength with which they would recommend the course to other radiology residents in their program.

Course readings, lectures and participation all earned roughly 6 points among students, while projects were seen as somewhat less valuable, at 5.1 points. In free response sections, students expressed high opinions for receiving instruction from the business school faculty.

“If radiology is to thrive in years to come, it will not suffice for radiologists, particularly radiology leaders, to have a fund of knowledge restricted to the typical content of radiology textbooks and journals. In an increasingly complex and competitive health care environment, it is vital that some radiologists look outside the bounds of the discipline and pursue advanced education in the areas of management and leadership,” Gunderman and Tawadros argued.

In addition to the students’ evaluations, business school faculty also expressed positive comments, highlighting the informativeness and usefulness of the course to their own teaching. The authors considered offering the course to residents of other medical specialties, in part to help the business school recoup the costs of launching and maintaining the course.

“In summary,” the authors wrote, “the need for high-quality business education for radiologists is great. It is important that more radiology residency programs seek opportunities to provide such educational experiences for their trainees.”