Radiology Consulting and Entrepreneurship - How to Leverage Your MD in Business
By Nathan Coleman, MD, radiology resident at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis
The newly revamped RFS Economics Advisory Group hosted its first journal club webinar on April 23, 2018. The topic of discussion was “Radiology Consulting and Entrepreneurship: How to Leverage Your MD in Business.” RFS members submitted questions to an expert panel comprised of Rasu Shrestha, MD, MBA, Ricky Caplin, MBA, Woojin Kim, MD, William Boonn, MD, and Jose Morey, MD. Collectively, their experience covers a broad array of topics, including informatics, healthcare start-ups, IT consulting, and AI.
Shrestha, who is chief innovation officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has an extensive history in informatics and IT innovation. Caplin is CEO of HCI Group and sits on the board of directors for Tech Mahindra. Kim and Boonn are co-founders of Montage Healthcare Solutions and both serve as chief medical information officers for Nuance Communications. Morey is the chief medical information officer at Liberty Medical Biosecurity, associate chief health officer with IBM Watson Medical Sieve Project, medical technology advisor for NASA I-tech, and chief medical officer for Virgin Hyperloop.
The initial discussion focused on Boonn’s and Kim’s experiences with their healthcare start-up company, Montage Healthcare Solutions, which was eventually bought out by Nuance. Efforts to improve search functionality within their institutional radiology information system eventually lead to the creation of Montage. Boon emphasized that simply having an idea was only a small part of the process of creating a start-up. In his words, a start-up requires its founders to have a “passion for executing the mundane,” which may include organizing a business plan, dealing with payroll, setting up booths at conferences, and raising capital. Passion was a constant theme throughout the discussion, as panelists emphasized that most radiologists could likely be more financially successful sticking with their day jobs. Drs. Kim and Boonn both spoke to the difficulties of juggling their clinical duties with their start-up efforts in the early days of their company.
Caplin provided insight into medical consulting and potential roles for radiologists in his companies. There are consulting opportunities for radiologists, even residents, in testing software and in other areas requiring a degree of subject knowledge. However, he also encouraged radiologists to take advantage of their intelligence and unique expertise as entrepreneurs. Few business leaders have comparable understanding of patient needs, physician workflow, or medical technology, yet healthcare makes up roughly 20 percent of our national GDP. There are innumberable opportunities for physician entrepreneurs in the current market. Along with Boonn and Kim, Caplin touched on the power of having a minimum viable product for individuals interested in creating a start-up. This often puts the entrepreneur in position to have greater control over his or her intellectual property, and is worth more than lots of capital without a realized product.
Shrestha also emphasized the need for passion as an ingredient to success as a physician in business, because financial security is greater as a full-time radiologist. However, he got involved with a start-up company during his informatics fellowship and later completed his MBA while also working full-time. Shrestha appreciated the broad perspective he gained from informatics, which he believes he wouldn’t have otherwise received during his more traditional medical education. Relationships he cultivated and projects he started during training carried over to create other opportunities later in his career.
Morey has a unique and multifaceted background, filling multiple roles while also practicing radiology full-time. He described his experiences working with his local IT groups early in his career, simply looking for solutions to problems encountered in everyday practice. These efforts often took time during his nights and weekends, squeezed in wherever possible. Several years prior, he was presenting some of their efforts at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine meeting and was subsequently approached by IBM. Morey highlighted the need to get out of our comfort zones to learn what other departments, specialties, or professions are doing to diversify knowledge and methodology. He suggested that “insatiable curiosity is a skill that can and should be learned.”
The discussion closed with similar thoughts from Caplin, who stated that most “chance” encounters come from simply taking a risk and putting yourself out there. As radiologists, we are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the business world and our patients’ needs. It is up to us to take the step beyond identifying problems, and start coming up with solutions.