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Exploring the application of commercial disciplines in the delivery of healthcare and how to develop your skillset within this

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10 Aug 2020

Exploring the application of commercial disciplines in the delivery of healthcare and how to develop your skillset within this

Tal Mahmud, GP, HIYOS (NHS GP practice)
Exploring the application of commercial disciplines in the delivery of healthcare and how to develop your skillset within this

I was brought up in Birmingham and went to University at Kings College in London. I loved London so stayed here, and have been a GP since 2000. I enjoy the variety of challenges it brings. Although I’ve had senior management roles on the board of a PCT and was the chair of a GP Federation, I’d never had any formal management training. So, in the twilight of my career, I thought I‘d do an Executive MBA and chose London Business School and what a ride it’s been! I remember having breakfast with my family at a café the day before the start of term, and feeling overwhelmingly apprehensive about what was to come.  What if no-one talked to me?  Or worse, what if they talked to me and I had no idea of what they were talking about?

The Dean Francois Ortalo-Magne spoke of us all being part of a strong community with the expectation that we all need to help and support one another. I admit I was sceptical  - that wasn’t my experience when I was last at school! However, in the two years I have been at LBS, the students, professors and faculty have without exception been utterly amazing. There is no hierarchy. It’s an eclectic bunch, especially those on the executive MBA, where we met every fortnight for two intense days for a year and then went onto electives. A huge number of students live or work abroad while studying at LBS and come from different industries such as consultancy, insurance, as well as some more glamorous ones - we have our very own fighter pilot and commander of a nuclear submarine!

Lectures from really cool professors, experts in their fields, gave new depth of meaning to words that I thought I understood such as strategy and entrepreneurialism, case studies were brought to life by the insights of the other members of staff. I would often sit in class and think what a great concept it would be great if that happened in healthcare. I was determined to try whatever we could in our practice. Could patients be ‘customers’? Are self-check tills in supermarkets a form of ‘self-care’? Should we look again at patient and clinician behaviours and try to understand that better? Should we be in the business of illness or health? Can we learn from other industries?

Group assignments were done in ‘study groups’ and I was really fortunate to be in one with some amazing people with different experiences and backgrounds from industries like banking, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. It was interesting to see that people had roles working on innovation within big corporates. Perhaps we could do the same in our practice? We set up 5 ‘innovation labs’ led by GPs and everyone in the practice worked on projects. It changed the way the practice tackled problems and collaborated internally and externally and resulted in innovative solutions to age old problems.

So for me, it’s all about people and experiences. People who are on your side who have a genuine interest in helping you. People who challenge your assumptions. People who help with application of academic framework in the real world, with all its complexities. Shared experiences – like doing better than expected in a tricky module, running right up to the wire of an 11.59pm assignment deadline. The shared experience of discussing ways of life from people from around the globe in London and visiting other places like San Francisco, Boston and Dubai and companies such as Facebook, Google, Linkedin and Uber and the experience of understanding how healthcare works outside the UK, first hand.

The MBA has had a huge impact on me, our practice and I am sharing what I have learnt more NHS Northwest London and NHS England. There’s no doubt that doing an MBA is a major commitment of time and money – both of which few have abundance of, however, I think those working in healthcare would benefit from learning best practice from the world of commerce as there’s so much that can be applied to health to result in better patient care and improve moral for staff. If you can then do. An alternative might be to do executive education courses which are shorter bitsized modules on areas of interest. If you can’t then explore your challenges with other people and don’t just to stick to healthcare providers. Talk to people in other industries and think of how the care you provide could adapt. Try things out. Fail at them. But try again and succeed!

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