On June 12th 2016, a number of physician entrepreneurs and investment experts convened at the annual American Medical Association (AMA) meeting to discuss how to transform a concept into a company in the healthcare sector. The meeting’s main topic of focus was physician entrepreneurship –- a term used to define innovative medical startups.
Physician entrepreneurship is a growing field in which medical physicians opt to forgo clinical medicine practices for non-clinical entrepreneurial roles in the healthcare system. Many believe that not only does physician entrepreneurship offer healthcare professionals with a better work-life balance and a bigger paycheck, but it also enhances medical professionalism by introducing innovations for a new era of modern medicine.
According to the AMA, the evolution of healthcare along with physician entrepreneurship is crucial for ensuring patient care. The current era is ripe with startups and innovative ideas, but when a health professional has an idea how do they turn it into reality?
The physician has to undergo various steps for the design and development of the idea so that a prototype can be created. The next step is to seek funding for the launch of the prototype through partnerships. The entire process may seem very simple in theory but diving into an entrepreneur’s world entails risk and commitment.
The AMA meeting discussed points which provided advice for aspiring physician entrepreneurs, informing them so that they know exactly what they are getting into. For instance, if a physician has completed their education and residency and decided to pursue an entrepreneurial career then they need to know what the future holds for them.
One of the questions they desperately need to ask themselves is how much time will they be able to allocate to their business practice ten years down the line.
“The best advice I received is that this is not different than any other form of clinical practice. Being a physician entrepreneur does not necessarily mean that you’re sacrificing current clinical practices for a business,” said Jay Joshi, MD, CEO and founder of Output Medical, and co-founder of MD Angels.
The speakers at the AMA meeting also stated that a physician entrepreneur needs to be comfortable with the risks involved in their new venture. They need to be comfortable with the fact that the new venture will take up a lot of their time and that they may not always be paid while establishing the venture.
If a person is willing to take risks, fueled by their passions, then creating a medical startup is the right path for them. Furthermore, an entrepreneur is not simply defined as someone having a new idea but is also judged by their ability to take risks in pursuit of that idea.
There are always unmet needs in clinical settings, the secret to success is to recognize and understand such patient care needs in order to make them better.
The AMA panel imparted valuable knowledge by sharing the two ways a resident or medical student can build a startup.
“In order to be successful in medical and health care innovation, you have to have a very strong understanding of the clinical fundamentals that you’re trying to address,” said Dr. Joshi.
The first shared opinion was ‘Right place, right time’ which means an aspiring entrepreneur needs to be in an environment where the ideas come to them. The best way for medical students or residents to increase the chances of them having ‘lightbulb moments’ for their startups is through their attendances.
Even though students or residents can be more creative, senior medical personnel in the medical field have already encountered many of the existing problems for years and probably already have many views on how the problems can be solved.
The second most important opinion of the panel was ‘Inject yourself into the tech world’. According to Arnab Sarker, the Director of Operations at K Street Capital and founding member of 1776 (incubator and seed fund company), if a medical student or a resident starts working or getting involved with a technology company early on in their career, it can help them immensely when the time comes to launch their own business.
“One of the most underrated opportunities for residents, fellows and med students is being a first follower at a company because then you really get to understand what the mechanics behind an idea are,” said Sarker.
Sarker further said that an idea is only one of many aspects that matter. Plenty of ideas exist but only viable ideas are successful, and understanding which idea is viable can only come from experience. Therefore getting involved with a real company is a good idea.
Sarker also advised that joining a company for free in search of experience can always be fruitful in the long-term. Future entrepreneurs can join by becoming mere consultants but after sometime, “I guarantee—they’re going to need you.”
The rise of physician entrepreneurship has led to the formation of many diverse global communities. Currently the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE) is the biggest biomedical and healthcare innovation network in the world, which aims to empower physicians for the innovation of healthcare through entrepreneurship. SoPE was launched in 2011 and currently holds more than 4,700 global members from the health industry.