Doctors Need to Show up, Not Just Put a Hand up

Doctors Need to Show up, Not Just Put a Hand up

Once again, after attending a digital health accelerator event, the lack of doctors and other health professionals at the meeting spoke volumes about their unwillingness or inabilility to meaningfully participate in designing, developing and deploying digital health products and services that could help transform sickcare to healthcare and move us towards the quintuple aim.

Despite efforts to the contrary, making end users part of the digital health innovation ecosystem have been stymied by:

  1. The lack of health systems and their employed physician workforce to cooperate with each other and meaningfully integrate with other components of local innovation ecosystems.

  2. The opportunity cost of a doctor's time to contribute to non-revenue generating activities. like advising or mentoring, and not dedicating time to the new, not just the now and the next.

  3. Their lack of business/entrepreneurial and IT knowledge, skills and attitudes.

  4. Their lack of an entrepreneurial mindset.

  5. Small and narrow networks that exclude those who are not part of their tribe.

  6. Work schedules that preclude participation in the local innovation ecosystem.

  7. Interference with work-life balance.

  8. Burnout.

  9. Their unwillingness to admit that they don't know what they don't know.

  10. Lack of alignment with what motivates them internally or externally and not enough in it for them.

  11. Unwillingness of BIG PHARMA, BIG DEVICE and BIG DIGITAL to engage doctors in the early stages of product development on their own terms due to IP, regulatory, business model and technology transfer obstacles.

  12. Conflict of interest and self dealing rules that discourage early stage research, development and commercialisation.

The lack of entrepreneurial medical schools doesn't help.

There are exceptions to physician participation nationally. But, most conferences are dominated by technologists, industry vendors, non-sickcare entrepreneurs and investors.

So, what should you do if you want to get in the game?

  1. What got you to where you are now will not get you to where you want to go. Create and execute a personal and professional physician entrepreneur development plan designed to provide you with entrepreneurial competencies, identify your blind spots and fill the gaps in what you don't know you don't know.

  2. Update your Linkedin profile, be sure it mentions your transferable skills and use it to join groups of interest and expand your internal and external networks.

  3. Find a mentor.

  4. Join your local or regional innovation ecosystem.

  5. Network relentlessly.

  6. Volunteer to be an advisor, mentor and consultant to emerging companies or as part of an accelerator, generator, scalerator or incubator.

  7. Lobby your medical society to include physician entrepreneurship and innovation education.

  8. Join the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs and participate in or create chapters.

  9. Volunteer to teach physician innovation and entrepreneurship in your local medical school or work with medical student and residents interested in physician entrepreneurship.

  10. Attend and participate in conferences, workshops, webinars and other online programs in your area of interest. 

Digital health entrepreneurship is a full contact sport that can't be achieved simply online nor can it be fixed from inside. If health professionals are dissatisfied and want to truly make a difference, they need to show up, not just put a hand up to volunteer their time and expertise. Then, they need to pay up i.e put some skin in the game, as they move in the engagement funnel from awareness to intention to decision to action to advocacy.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs on Twitter@ArlenMD and Co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship. 

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  • Steph Harrison

    Conferences provide a tangible contribution to career development.

  • Dave Boulton

    All breakthroughs require tremendous amounts of money and research.

  • Kenneth Barton

    Smaller focused groups of doctors may be indispensable.

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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