How Everyday Physicians Can Become Entrepreneurs

March 1, 2016

By: Molly Maloof, MD To achieve independent practice success physicians need to think like entrepreneurs. Here are some tips on how to do that.

Whether you are a practicing physician, a resident about to finish training, or a medical student - if you don’t want to work for a large hospital group, the secret to a successful independent practice is thinking like an entrepreneur. The entrepreneurial mindset isn’t something you have to be born with. It can be learned.

According to the magazine, Entrepreneur, there are eight facets of the entrepreneurial mindset including:
1. Opportunity recognition
2. Risk tolerance
3. Innovation and creativity
4. Future orientation towards the future
5. Flexibility and adaptability
6. Self-directed initiative
7. Critical thinking and problem solving
8. Collaborative communication.

A lot of doctors don’t realize that their training prepares them for entrepreneurship. It takes a lot of self-direction and initiative to be a premed student in college. In medical school, doctors learn a ton about critical thinking and problem solving through the constant testing and evaluation. Doctors become better at collaboration and communication in residency through team-based learning. By the time a doctor is done with training, he has learned how to be flexible and adaptable because of the ever-changing environment of rotations that require hands-on learning. Because so much of a physician’s life is waiting for the day he gets to practice, we’re naturally geared towards thinking about the future.

On the other hand, the training of a doctor is definitely not characterized by risk tolerance, opportunity recognition, and creative innovation. These areas are more challenging for physicians to master when learning how to think like an entrepreneur, but again, they are trainable.

Starting a new practice is all about opportunity recognition. In a new doctor’s case, the opportunity is growing a patient panel. In an established doctor’s case, it’s all about refining your value proposition over time, retaining patients, and establishing your growing expertise.

The reality is whether you are a general practitioner, family doctor, or a specialist, to market yourself properly, you need to establish your business model and your niche. Think about these questions:
• What are you good at?
• What are your strongest skills?
• What are you genuinely enthusiastic about?
• What can you be paid for?

Your business model should be created where the answers to these questions overlap. If you already have an established practice niche and business model, the question is where is there opportunity to creatively innovate around what you are already doing?

Perhaps you recommend the same products over and over again to patients. You might consider creating a website for your practice with an Amazon store attached. Or, you may consider selling products that you love in your waiting room. Many dermatologists and other physicians are recognizing that developing their own product brand is a great way to add revenue and improve the health of patients.

For new doctors just starting out, generating revenue through insurance billing can be hard since this is rarely taught in medical schools. On top of that, the task of setting up an EHR, lab ordering system, and online prescriptions can be daunting. One way to innovate past your peers is to find a full-service solution that offers both a full service EHR, billing solution, and patient engagement platform.

The key is to develop positive relationships with companies so that you can simplify the number of software subscriptions you need. Those can add up over time. Finding companies that do multiple things can dramatically reduce your risk for wasting money and losing revenue while you build your practice.

Lastly, if you want to generate a strong reputation online as well as offline, you have to market yourself appropriately. Having a website that reflects who you are, what you do, and why you care about your patients (your customers) is a good start. However, saying you are great isn’t enough. You may also want to invest in software that enables you to poll your patient population so you can increase the number of positive reviews found on Yelp, Google, and other sites.

If you love your autonomy, want to maintain ultimate responsibility for your practice and your patients, are driven by change, and are passionate about implementing new technologies, you may not realize it but you would probably make a fantastic entrepreneur. Take these tips and examine your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to fail fast when it comes to making changes in your practice. Hire an adaptable team and take a few risks. Remember: you’ve got everything it takes to build the practice of your dreams.