Competitive Advantage of MBA for Physician Executives: A Systematic Literature Review

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World Journal of Surgery


In response to systemic challenges facing the US healthcare system, many medical students, residents and practicing physicians are pursuing a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree. The value of such proposition remains poorly defined. The aim of this review is to analyze current literature pertaining to the added value of MBA training for physician executives (PEs). We hypothesized that physicians who supplement their clinical expertise with business education gain a significant competitive advantage. A detailed literature search of four electronic databases (PubMed, SCOPUS, Embase and ERIC) was performed. Included were studies published between Jan 2000 and June 2017, focusing specifically on PEs. Among 1580 non-duplicative titles, we identified 23 relevant articles. Attributes which were found to add value to one’s competitiveness as PE were recorded. A quality index score was assigned to each article in order to minimize bias. Results were tabulated by attributes and by publication. We found that competitive domains deemed to be most important for PEs in the context of MBA training were leadership (n = 17), career advancement opportunities (n = 12), understanding of financial aspects of medicine (n = 9) and team-building skills (n = 10). Among other prominent factors associated with the desire to engage in an MBA were higher compensation, awareness of public health issues/strategy, increased negotiation skills and enhanced work–life balance. Of interest, the learning of strategies for reducing malpractice litigation was less important than the other drivers. This comprehensive systemic review supports our hypothesis that a business degree confers a competitive advantage for PEs. Physician executives equipped with an MBA degree appear to be better equipped to face the challenge of the dynamically evolving healthcare landscape. This information may be beneficial to medical schools designing or implementing combined dual-degree curricula.

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