Not too long ago, doctors who became entrepreneurs got little respect from their medical colleagues. After all, you went to medical school to learn how to take good care of patients and, in the end, you were awarded a medical degree, not an MBA. “Critics often note that profit motive tends to worsen outcomes in patient-focused medicine. When it comes to deciding between better vital signs or higher bottom lines, there can be only one choice,” (tmait.org, December 18, 2015). Practicing medicine can be more than a full-time job, and for many doctors it’s seen as a calling. Being a good doctor simply doesn’t leave enough time for an entrepreneurial venture on the side. No doubt, this is a valid argument. Why then are we seeing so many “doctorpreneurs”?
Independent practitioners bemoan the increasing loss of autonomy and dwindling profit margins, as today’s employer-based model forces them to consider alternatives to private practice. “Over 90% of new physician job openings feature employment by hospitals, medical groups, community health centers, or other healthcare facilities,” according to a report prepared by physician search firm Merritt Hawkins (June 30, 2014). “The employed model is almost the only choice for physicians seeking practice opportunities today.” Physician-provided patient care is giving way to team-based delivery models in which primary care physicians become healthcare coordinators. Whether in independent practice or employed, this is having a negative impact on physician incomes. “We are scrambling for other income sources just to make the same amount as before,” says Dr. Sam Harrison (tmait.org, December 18, 2015).
Traditionally, physicians have preferred the clinical side of practicing medicine and have paid less attention to “running a business.” Despite an assumed lack of “business smarts,” physicians share certain personality traits with successful entrepreneurs, according to Shiv Gaglani (entrepreneur.com, 10/30/2013) in an article entitled “Why Medical Schools Are Pumping Out Entrepreneurs”:
- “Medical students [and entrepreneurs] develop an unusual capacity for marathon work sessions, far beyond the intense sprints familiar to most college students.”
- “Medical students and entrepreneurs alike set clear milestones and doggedly pursue them with laser-like vision.”
- “Medical students and successful entrepreneurs are driven by a genuine mission.”
These similarities aside, entrepreneurs are usually risk-takers, and medical students generally prefer avoiding risk. Despite this apparent contradiction, today’s “doctorpreneur” is changing how medicine is practiced in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.
Ken Teufel, M.D., M.A.