The Golden Age of Physician Entrepreneurship

Physician entrepreneurs are taking a more active involvement in innovating our way out of our sick-care mess-not dying, as some seem to think.

Spring is a season of rebirth. So it's a good time to remind ourselves that physician entrepreneurs are taking a more active involvement in innovating our way out of our sick-care mess—not dying, as some seem to think. The problem is that pundits confuse private practitioners as the only breed of physician entrepreneurs, when, in fact there are many.

A 2013 AMA report notes that 53.2% of all physicians surveyed were self-employed, and 60% of physicians worked in practices wholly owned by physicians.

Entrepreneurship, in my opinion, is not about risk-takers who assume full responsibility for their successes and failures. Instead, biomedical and health entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity with scarce resources with the goal of creating user-defined value through the discovery, design, development, testing, validation, and deployment of biomedical products or health services or process innovation. It is definitely not practice management. Entrepreneurs manage risk, they don't just wildly take it.

Physician entrepreneurs can create patient-defined value in many ways other than owning and running a private practice. They can be technopreneurs, social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, physician investors, or help other physician entrepreneurs get their ideas to patients providing services.

Physician entrepreneurship is not dying. Instead, to the contrary, we are witnessing the golden age of physician entrepreneurship. While a large number of doctors are seeking shelter in employed situations, my view is this is a temporary blip. New models of private practice and the intoxication of creating wealth through ownership will eventually drive a turnaround and we will see a bottoming out of employed physician numbers.

Getting a W-2 for the rest of your professional medical life is so 1950s. A new generation of students in the pipeline who want to make a difference know it, despite some classmates who insist on working for The Man their entire career. The grey flannel suit just doesn't fit any more.