If you follow this space, you may already know that I’m dubious about the value to physicians of stopping out for an MBA.  As an MBA-holder myself, I think the coursework can be overkill for independent physicians who just want to run their practices better (this is less the case for those that intend on corporate careers, of course).

So much of modern MBA training focuses on things that aren’t generally relevant to the small/medium business owner (and, therefore, the typical private practice physician partner).  Even worse, some of the business basics that doctors need most usually aren’t well covered by MBA programs — managing people; the minutia of local, state and federal regulations; the marketing of a small, local business; real estate finance; negotiations, etc.

The other issue facing physicians (and sometimes practice managers, too) is the opportunity cost — and actual cost.  The opportunity cost is the income lost by taking time off from practicing/working to attend an MBA program, and the actual cost is the (often very high) tuition at business schools.  For many, perhaps most, private practice owners and managers, it just may not ‘pencil out’ to take the time and invest the money*.

One solution that can work well as a substitute is taking local classes (e.g., nights and weekends) that focus just on what you really need and want to learn.  This can be a reasonable approach — and even a trial to see if further investment in MBA education is of interest.  But, there is also the issue of having to attend class at set times — not always convenient ones.

Now, though, there is a better alternative: MOOCs, massively open online courses.  Incredibly, some of the most prestigious business programs in the country, including Stanford, Wharton and Columbia, are making some of their most valuable content available through the free platforms like Coursera and EdX.  And it’s not only self-directed — i.e., you take the classes at your convenience — it’s FREE!  (Yes, unbelievable.)

Lest you think this is just throw-away content, Business Insider has kindly assembled a list of some of the most impressive management coursework out there.  And, it includes — just for example — finance with Robert Shiller (newly minted as a Nobel Laureate this week), economics with Predictably Irrational author Dan Ariely, and the better part of the Wharton core MBA curriculum for first year students.  (I have personally taken the Wharton operations management course with Christian Terwiesch.  It’s fantastic and offers great tools for thinking about practice workflow.)

What an amazing opportunity to check out MBA-style thinking and apply it to your practice businesses — without the huge costs and risk.  Here’s a link to the full list from Business Insider:

http://www.businessinsider.com/best-free-online-business-courses-2013-10?op=1

 

*Of course, if money is not an issue and making more of it through your practice not the immediate goal, and if you’re spurred by academic interest, that’s another matter entirely — and I say go for it in that case

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