The Rise of the Doctorpreneur


laptop and stethoscope

Two years ago, in a course about informatics in healthcare, I had the pleasure of meeting a pediatrician that turned chief medical informatics officer (CMIO), who was working to improve the technical needs in the hospital. It was exactly the type of job a physician with a tech inkling would want. My question to him was very simple: “Should I do a residency after medical school?”

When the training to become a physician has been difficult, I think about his advice: “You can’t expect to best improve the technology that propels healthcare when you’re not in the midst of it.” From my observations in Silicon Valley, leaving medicine to run a company is the ‘dream’. The truth is, you’ll move faster in the tech industry if you’re fully dedicated to working on your startup than undergoing the long training to become a specialized physician. The problem, however, is that we desperately need more actively practicing physicians that direct how technology can be applied in order to solve healthcare problems. Their presence serves to better understand the challenges faced while leading their colleagues (a group historically slow to adopt tech advances) to embrace something new. In making a decision to adopt a new piece of hardware or software, would you rather trust someone who lacks hands-on experience with your current challenges or someone who can show you how they implemented novel technologies in their own daily practice?

Being a physician-tech liaison is perhaps one of the most needed roles in our current system. However, those in leadership roles are physicians who are no longer practicing or tech entrepreneurs from other industries who believe they have figured out the key to healthcare’s problems without living the system.  I fully believe that fresh perspectives from outside of medicine have been increasingly important for scientific and technological discovery. The effectiveness in going from these discoveries to bedside is still limited in ability to integrate with the concerns inside of medicine. Perhaps, the answer is to spend more time curating physician techies in a pathway that is untraditional -those who are both actively practicing and actively advocating for technology. As countries around the world are realizing that medical education must be re-evaluated, hopefully the foundation for building up professionals with dual qualities will be created.

Photo Credit: jfcherry