How physician entrepreneurs can help drive health care’s future

Tanya Albert Henry , Contributing News Writer

Physicians’ minds and their practical experiences make them well-suited to solve problems they encounter, use technology in new ways to deliver better care, and create innovations that help bring joy back to medicine.

Half the dues, all the AMA benefits!

AMA membership offers unique access to savings and resources tailored to enrich the personal and professional lives of physicians, residents and medical students.

As this digitally enabled care is developed and implemented, some physicians are fostering and spearheading innovation to help shape the future of medicine. During a webinar that is part of the AMA’s work to drive the future of health, four doctors discussed their journeys to becoming physician entrepreneurs.

They encouraged other physicians to pursue their ideas and not be put off by colleagues or others who may discourage them. Webinar guests were:

  • Internist Anwar A. Jebran, MD, a clinical informatics fellow and internal medicine instructor at University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.
  • Family physician and obesity medicine specialist Carolynn Francavilla Brown, MD, who owns and operates Green Mountain Partners for Health and Colorado Weight Care in Denver. She also shares tips with physicians on how to help their patients lose weight.
  • Otolaryngologist Danish Nagda, MD, the founder and CEO of Rezilient, a St. Louis-based company that has developed what they call “CloudClinics.” Physical offices are staffed by nurses, and doctors appear on video screens and use a robotic system to treat patients.
  • Internist and clinical informaticist Yauheni Solad, MD, the vice president of innovation at University of California, Davis, Health.

Here is some of what they had to say.

Related Coverage

6 essential steps to closing the digital health disconnect

Panelists agreed that there is no single path for all. Some physicians become entrepreneurs while maintaining their practice. Others pursue master’s training in business or take other, more formal paths to gain knowledge.

“It’s all about having the option to do what you are passionate about and what you are interested in,” Dr. Jebran said. “Go out there, learn from people. Networking is key. ... Mentorship is key, because you don’t want to make the obvious mistake you can avoid.”

“We are at a watershed moment: Either the legacy health care system starts making changes, or new models are going to emerge,” said Dr. Nagda. “The reason why I’m doing this, the reason why I’m inspired … is because the only solution out of this is innovation and it really comes down to—will it come from within the system or from outside of it?”

Related Coverage

Why collaboration is key to optimizing digital health

“Across medical innovation, there is nothing that can substitute the clinical experience,” said Dr. Solad. “If we go through the funding for the last decade, funding significantly increased. Unfortunately, despite that, a lot of the companies still struggle to find a market fit and end up selling to the incorrect customers or end up potentially exiting the business. And a lot of the time it comes up from the lack of understanding of not only the health care system, but actually of the clinical problem they have been working with.”

Transitioning to entrepreneurship

Physicians looking to become entrepreneurs should expect to sacrifice and perhaps work a second job, or take out loans, said Dr. Francavilla Brown, an AMA member who is chair-elect of the AMA Private Practice Physicians Section’s governing council.

Nevertheless, she encouraged others to take the chance.

“You will have people who will tell you your vision is not possible,” she said, recalling others who were skeptical of her plans for how to run her practice. “Seven years later, it’s working. … You need to be confident enough in your belief that you can implement your vision.”

Dr. Nagda added that physicians should not expect a “magical moment where you will feel comfortable starting your own business or taking the leap. It will always feel like a pit in your stomach because it is not this guaranteed salary.”

Learn more about the AMA Future of Health Immersion Program.