DENVER – A 2013 report by the World Health Organization set the global shortage of healthcare professionals at 7.2 million, and projected that shortage to double by 2035. In the US alone, the Association of American Medical Colleges has projected a shortage of over 40,000 physicians in the next ten years. With the demand for healthcare growing steadily, more and more medical professionals are looking to innovation as a means of overcoming this shortage.
Dr. Arlen Meyers, President and Co-founder of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE), sees innovation playing a major role in meeting the growing demand for healthcare. CyberMed News recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Meyers about the global phenomenon of physician entrepreneurship and how physician-driven innovations can expand access to healthcare worldwide.
What is a physician entrepreneur?
There are a lot of definitions of physician entrepreneurship. The way I define it there are four parts: the pursuit of opportunity with uncontrolled or scarce resources, with the goal of creating user-defined value through the deployment of biomedical or clinical innovation.
What led you to become a physician entrepreneur?
There were several things that happened. As my career evolved as an academic ear, nose, and throat surgeon, I was very much involved in technology commercialization, with an interest in bioengineering. But fundamentally what it came down to was that my experience led me to see the opportunity. The opportunity was that almost every doctor has a good idea; they just don’t know what to do with it. There was nothing out there that addressed this need, so that’s why we created SoPE.
What is the purpose of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs?
Our mission is to help members get their ideas to patients. We provide education, resources, networks, mentors, and experiential learning through a global chapter network. We were officially launched as a non-profit in January of 2011. We now have a chapter in Dubai, and we’re working on one in London. We envision that in the next year, we’ll have a chapter on every continent in the world. I’m probably going to try to form one in Brazil later this year.
What that speaks to is that physician entrepreneurship is a global phenomenon – that opportunity is global. The problem is there is an infinite demand for health resources with a finite supply. Innovation is really the only way to satisfy that demand.
What role do you see physician entrepreneurs playing in healthcare?
Changing the system and creating value. We’re never going to be able to provide as much care as we need to provide to all of the patients who need it. But we really need to close the significant gaps that presently exist. Eliminating variations of care, addressing the socioeconomic determinants of health that drive health outcome disparities: there’s a whole list of things that we need to work on through innovation.
How do you see physician entrepreneurs transforming healthcare?
I see them getting more involved, and getting more involved earlier in the product development and innovation cycle. For too long the innovation supply chain has ignored the two major components of the system: the patient and the doctor. It’s been driven by the medical industrial complex and by rules. As we become more democratized in care, as we become more globalized, as we become more commoditized, and as the Internet has basically taken over our lives, what you’re seeing is more bottom up participation from doctors – like what you see with the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, a collaborative online innovation network that is entirely bottom up.