Physician entrepreneurship has changed from being a curiosity to becoming mainstream in five short years. Defined as physicians pursuing opportunity with scarce resources with the goal of creating user-defined value through the deployment of biomedical and clinical innovation, we are starting to see some trends and fault lines forming.
1. The phenomenon affects all physician demographics including the young and the restless (in training or in practice less than five years), the desperados (in the prime of their professional careers (6-40 years in practice), and the old and the grumpy (arbitrarily over 65) but looking to rewire, not retire, pursuing encore careers.
2.International bioentrepreneurship education programs are evolving and offering various levels of training and platforms. MD/MBA programs, while still being offered, are being displaced by more specific, sick-care-relevant, market-driven offerings that teach more clinically relevant, market driven knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
3. More medical students are electing to forgo residencies to work with industry or create their own companies. While ultimately a personal decision, some think it is an encouraging sign while others question the wisdom of that pathway. After all, it's called physician entrepreneur for a reason.
4. Digital health is getting most of the attention. Unfortunately, it has yet to demonstrate it can deliver most of the value.
5. Academic medical centers have searched and replaced "research" with "innovation" in their marketing literature and branding communications. Listen to this for some stories about how they are doing.
6. Sick-care employment has dropped for the first time in 10 years. Reading the tea leaves is always hazardous to your health, but some feel the era of "rightsizing" has started as we wean ourselves from inefficient, wasteful, costly, medical and business practices.
7. Consolidation of hospitals and insurance companies are making it harder to innovate and creating hostilities between the administrators, third-party intermediaries, and the grunts in the trenches.
8. Physician employment is plateauing, but significant intrapreneurial barriers persist.
9. People are finally beginning to abandon the notion that doctors are lousy business people. Even doctors are starting to believe the contrary about themselves.
10. The names of the players and the dramatis personae have changed. The word police have been active.
Physician entrepreneurship continues to evolve before our eyes. If things go according to plan, physician entrepreneurs will be more and more involved in the innovation supply chain at earlier stages helping others innovate our way out of the sick care mess. If things don't go that way, we'll just have lots more people with lots more letters after their names.
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org