Innovation at ACC | How Can Physicians Contribute to Health Care Innovation?

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The focus on innovation in health care is accelerating. More funding, engagement from large organizations and speedier U.S. Food and Drug Administration processes are all contributing to this boom. For many physicians, standing on the sidelines is not enough. They want to participate in the entrepreneurial economy and experience the adrenaline associated with innovation. There are a variety of paths that can lead to helping shape the future of the health care industry.

Why Should I Get Involved?

Ultimately most physicians get involved, at least in part, because they want better patient outcomes. They are seemingly always on the lookout for innovative ways to provide better outcomes. By contributing to these innovations, physicians can take a more hands-on approach to the success of new ideas.

Beyond the obvious, however, physicians can help to speed up the development of products and services. They know firsthand what their patients need and how best to treat them. They’re familiar with regulatory processes, and in some cases already working with entities championing innovation.

An often overlooked aspect is the ability of physicians to guide companies in their mission. Nearly every idea goes through the iterative process over a product’s lifespan. When this happens, it’s easy for companies to lose sight of their greater mission and to put their entire focus on the product. Physicians work every day with a single goal in mind – providing a better life for their patients. Within the innovation process, this same mindset allows physicians to make suggestions that assist course correction.

How Do I Get Involved?

There are different paths a physician can take to contribute to innovation in health care. The roles of physician entrepreneur, trusted advisor, specialty consultant or investor are all viable.

The role of the physician entrepreneur is certainly not new. A prime example of physicians always seeking to make things better for their patient is Billy Cohn, MD. A cardiovascular surgeon who also works at the Center for Device Innovation at Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, he has maintained his practice – and amassed over 90 patents either granted or pending. Many of his devices, some of which started with prototypes pieced together from hardware stores, have made significant impacts in the world of cardiology.

Physician entrepreneurs have a strong understanding of clinical fundamentals that helps them to address their areas of concern with an efficiency and focus that entrepreneurs with different backgrounds may not have. Although there may be an opportunity cost associated with pursuing innovation, physician entrepreneurs often are good candidates for the ability to manage side projects.

The American Medical Association has even gotten behind the idea of physician entrepreneurs. Its Physician Innovation Network aims to connect physicians and entrepreneurs. This comes after a push over the past few years to encourage more physicians to take the leap into entrepreneurship.

Advisors and consultants also play a critical role in the world of innovation. As an advisor, the physician can help spot problems before they arise. They generally serve as a long-term part of the team and often they are compensated for their time – usually through equity with an occasional honorarium/retainer.

Consultants are the specialists of the innovation world. Startups, physician entrepreneurs and even established companies call on the expertise of consultants to solve specific problems. Thus, they often have a shorter term role with a company, but they can add to its success.

In addition to earning sweat equity, many physicians have learned to invest in what they know. The same qualities that make them prime candidates for advisors and consultants contribute to strengths as investors. They know their areas of expertise better than anyone on the outside and understand the processes around regulation and how regulation affects bringing a product to the mass market.

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Notably, it’s important for physicians to be aware of what they don’t know. AngelMD is helping to bridge the knowledge gap between a physician’s practice and the first investment. By drawing on the wisdom of professional investors and other physicians who have already invested, AngelMD allows for better outcomes for everyone involved.

The physician investor has some pitfalls to navigate. Conflicts of interest are always a concern, but a little care ensures these issues are avoided. A network of people with expertise is critical. The network can help provide answers and avoid potential problems, while empowering physicians to make smart decisions to help shape the face of health care innovation.

Visit to learn more about how they’re bridging the knowledge gap in health care innovation.

This article was authored by Brad McCarty, Content Manager, at AngelMD.

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, United States Food and Drug Administration, Delivery of Health Care, Health Care Sector

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