Phil Powell

Clinical Associate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy
Daniel C. Smith Faculty Fellow
Executive Director, Indiana Business Research Center

Healthcare is the most valuable industry in the U.S. economy, but in our country, it is mostly broken, says Phil Powell, clinical associate professor of business economics. Literature suggests one-third of every healthcare dollar is wasted, totaling $1.2 trillion in value that could be harvested by better management decisions.

“When you use management knowledge to practice medicine, you not only reduce cost and improve economic efficiency but also save more lives,” says Powell.

About a quarter million people die each year in the United States due to mistakes in the clinical setting. By educating and empowering physicians to be the leaders in their healthcare organizations, Powell feels business schools – and business professors – have an opportunity to partner with clinicians to save lives.

When you use management knowledge to practice medicine, you not only reduce cost and improve economic efficiency but also save more lives.

“By teaching physicians to make better management decisions, I’m one degree removed from helping to save people’s lives,” he says. “The Business of Medicine Physician MBA Program is how the Kelley School of Business saves lives. And that’s powerful, especially for someone like me who didn’t go to medical school. It is a very strong, passionate calling for me.”

Powell instructs physicians in the Macroeconomics for Managers course. While many classes in the Physician MBA Program teach students how to control variables within their reach, Powell’s course focuses on aspects beyond their control.

“Whether you’re a physician, business owner, manager or all three together (and many of our students are), you can’t control where the economy is headed,” he says. “But you can understand how the economy impacts your organization, how it evolves and how to plan accordingly to hedge your risks and position yourself to take advantage of opportunity.”

Physicians often begin Powell’s macroeconomics course without understanding the basic tenets of the Federal Reserve, stock markets, fiscal policy in Washington, D.C. or the evolution of the U.S. economy. Powell leads them through case studies on the U.S. Constitution, the Great Depression, the recession in the 1980s, the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic to retrace and analyze events that affect the U.S. economy so physicians gain a broader perspective on systemic financial impact.

By the end, Powell says physicians feel empowered, and they begin to understand how the world around them fits together economically and financially. Ultimately, they are able to forecast where the U.S. economy is headed.

This knowledge is why the Physician MBA Program exists: to put physicians in charge of U.S. healthcare. The mission is regime change. We want to replace the suits with the white coats in healthcare CEO suites.