How to Overcome the Barriers to Physician-Medtech Collaboration

How to Overcome the Barriers to Physician-Medtech Collaboration

Anecdotal evidence suggests that innovative medical devices often arise from physicians’ inventive activity, but few studies have documented the extent of such physician-engaged innovation. This 2008 paper uses patent data and the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile to provide evidence that physicians contribute to medical device innovation, accounting for almost 20 percent of approximately 26,000 medical device patents filed in the United States during 1990–1996. Moreover, two measures indicate that physician patents had more influence on subsequent inventive activity than nonphysician patents. This finding supports the maintenance of an open environment for physician-industry collaboration in the medical device discovery process.

There are many opportunities for physicians in non-clinical careers working with medtech companies.

Despite the growth in physician entrepreneurship and collaboration, particularly in digital health, there remain significant barriers.

The obstacles mostly have to do with 1) developing personal and professional physician entrepreneurial competencies, 2) the medtech innovation ecosystem, and 3) overcoming the barriers to physician-industy collaboration.

Overcoming the latter will require:

  1. Educating potential physician collaborators about the medtech biodesign and commercialization roadmap with particular emphasis on intellectual property, regulatory affairs and reimbursement.

  2. Removing the anti-entrepreneurial policies and procedures at academic medical centers.

  3. Creating incentives for physicians to participate.

  4. Resolving conflict of interest rules to allow transparent collaboration, particularly as it applies to new product development.

  5. Resolving the cultural differences between academia and industry.

  6. Providing experiential learning opportunities to potential medtech physician entrepreneurs like sabbaticals, fellowships and knowledge transfer and exchange programs.

  7. Incorporating industry partners into bioentrepreneurship education and training programs particularly in graduate schools.

  8. Streamlining technology transfer policies and procedures.

  9. Removing institutional silos that prevent interdisciplinary, interprofessional and cross campus collaborations, particularly between clinicians, computer scientists and bioengineers.

  10. Awarding promotion and tenure or compenstation incentives to those who create entrepreneurial value through the deployment of innovation.

For too long, two critical partners in the life science innovation roadmap have been marginalized or excluded-physicians and their patients. It's time to remove the barriers to collaboration to further catalyze the rapid transformation of sickcare to healthcare.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs and at Twitter@ArlenMD.

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  • Aiden Claridge

    So much passion and purpose in your piece.

  • Junior Reid

    Wise advices. Thanks.

  • Mike Challinor

    Great points brought up

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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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