The trouble with innovating with doctors

Doctors , at least theoretically, should be able to add a lot to the biomedical and health innovation supply chain. The reality is different. There are many barriers to engaging clinicians in the creation, development, testing, validation and deployment of new medical technologies and the reasons falll into several cagtegories:

The Doctors

1.Few doctors have an entrepreneurial mindset and they have an attitude that sometimes gets in the way. They are interested mostly in the now, not the new, and are unwilling or unable to participate. They struggle with having one foot on the dock and the other in the boat.

2. Looking towards doctors to fund your idea has its own set of problems.

3. Most doctors are not well connected outside of medicine or have not developedexternal robust networks to those in interface technologies where innovation is happening.

4. They don’t understand physician entrepreneurship and have neither the knowledge, skills or attitudes nor an entrepreneurial mindset to participate in the process

5. They don’t know how to measure value.

Differing innovation pathways and roles

6. The route to value varies for drug discovery and development, medtech commercialization, digital health design and deployment, care delivery innovation and business process innovation. While there are some concepts that span all and are part of the core curriculum, each pathway is unique enough when it comes to IP, reimbursement, business models and regulatory approval that it usually takes takingthe graduate course to get comfortable participating.

7. Potential physician entrepreneurs can play many roles as small business owners (private practitioners), technopreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors, social entrepreneurs or consultants. Unfortunately, doctors, through no fault of their own,, are more of a problem than a solution.

The non-doctors

8. Non-doctors and doctors are having a hard time understanding each other. In some instances, they are polar opposites.

9, Innovation centersknowledge transfer attempts and  accelerators are notclinician friendly.

10. Business people are lousy doctors.

It is understandable why only 1% of doctors are engaged in biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship. It goes much beyond running a private practice. However, all stakeholders will need to overcome these issues if we are to innovate our way out of the sick care mess with doctors being something other than a solution looking for a problem or just grumpy, complaining bystanders.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at and a contributor