Are doctors commercial enough to run a business

It's commonplace to see medical doctors in business. The reasons seem almost too obvious, you cannot run clinics or hospitals with medical expertise alone.

Let’s begin with defining “Commercial Awareness” – i.e. being commercially minded.

“Commercial awareness is all about having some understanding of the business world. It is all about being able to look at situations from a commercial perspective.” (Source: All About Careers)

With this out there, let’s look into this as we reference doctors and their commercial ability to run a business. These days there are MANY medical doctors in business, in fact, it’s pretty common.

Medical startups and ventures prove certain doctors have that skill, that vision and foresight to see where a business should be headed.

Let’s break this down into some simple questions.

1.Why Would a Medical Doctor Understand the Commercial World?

Medical Doctors have to understand business and its commercial properties because believe it or not, they don’t operate in a bubble – whether you’re in the NHS, Private Healthcare or your own clinic, it all runs as a business.

2.Why is Commercial Awareness Important in Business?

Having a commercial mindset is a key employability skill. Showing you can understand the marketplace and how that business operates within that, means you possess a ‘commercial’ vision.
Whether in the public or private sector, the business brain doesn’t discriminate. With exceptions, notably most of the charity sector, business operate to GENERATE A PROFIT.

medical doctors in business

Within the medical industry, “being commercial” also involves understanding the demand for the business i.e. people – the patients. Therefore, doctors need to keep on top of economic trends and social patterns to ensure they understand how they should be operating their clinics.

3. Being commercially-minded means understanding Business. Do doctors possess this?

With an increasing number of M.D students now studying a combined degree with an M.B.A in the United States, are we going to see a similar pattern here in the UK. Regardless of what state the medical system is, young doctors have an entrepreneurial drive – medical students are likely now looking beyond their pure clinical careers…

To add, there is huge scope within medicine emerging each year for health-tech startups to lead the way in business and medical innovation – improving patient care with the aim of making solutions more patient-focused and of higher quality using business and medical expertise.

4. Doctors Often Think with a Business Mind

Whether or not doctors realise it, as soon as one begins mapping out thoughts about how a unit, clinic or department could be improved, the business mind is already off the start line.

Management issues continue to be “an issue” which is forcing many doctors who stay within their profession to enrol on MBA programs as business school students. The number of doctors who feel it is important to enrol on MBA programs has now become common since the trend began more prominently around 6 or 7 years ago.

Doctors wish to understand business for several reasons a couple include,

  1. Understanding how they could perform their job better,
  2. Changing roles within the hospital, clinic or industry to something more similar to a consultancy role – more commonly, this would involve the shift to the pharmaceutical industry in order to keep using their medical knowledge and expertise.

This quote came from Tim Peachey – NHS Medical Director stating,

“…the most important things I have learnt are in finance and accountancy: for a doctor involved in the management of an NHS hospital, it is essential to have a good understanding of accountancy.

Otherwise it can be quite difficult to follow what the finance director is saying and why.”

Altogether it proves that doctors ARE commercially minded and aware that they need to be, in order to successfully run their department. In fact, many US medical schools are now offering combined MD/MBA “Dual Degree” degrees as a result of the growing emphasis on a doctor’s needs for business skills.

This interesting article published last year, from, describes how graduates and experienced doctors understand the advantages of having professional business knowledge in the medical industry.
Currently, in the UK, it appears there are no formal study programmes of this nature, but should this be something British institutions offer?

Doctors who understand how a business runs are always the commercial ones and as an increasing number of doctors diversify into alternative careers or startups, it’s proving more commonplace.

For more on starting a business, check out our Entrepreneur Career Guide.

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Russell Goodman