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Healthcare Consulting Basics

As a healthcare consultant, I want to share some healthcare consulting basics for any medical professional who might be interested in pursuing the same career path.

I am placing most of my consulting energy into one medical startup. I think this is the best use of my time because they see something in me that would be otherwise hard for me to demonstrate to other companies. I simply don’t have enough experience or the adequate credentials to market myself more aggressively.

After my recent work project with this company, they have asked me for more help on a related project. And though we haven’t discussed any financial terms for the consulting, I’ve made myself available to them in hopes of a more permanent opportunity.

If you want to read more on the topic of healthcare consulting, you can check out the following topics:

Healthcare Consulting 101

There is no book written on this topic which would answer all your questions. If you’re a medical professional who is doing healthcare consulting, then you’ll have to figure it out on your own.

I hope my posts on this topic and therefore my fails and successes will provide healthcare consulting basics on which you can build your own consulting career.

In the beginning it’s important to focus on being a good communicator and marketing yourself. These have steep learning curves but not hard to figure out. Next, you’ll need to build a network of other like minded medical professionals.

Eventually, you’ll need to decide on which niche you’ll like to focus on. This will make marketing easier.

Way down the list is figuring out your income. Expect to do some free work for a while. Though don’t think of it as doing free work – it’s investing in your future.

1. Getting Paid

When should you demand to get paid for your consulting work? How much free work should you offer? When are you getting taken advantage of?

I discussed in a previous post how to set your consulting fees. But before asking for fees, it’s good to consider all the variables.

To answer these questions it’s necessary to know how much value you are bringing to the company. If they can replace me fairly easily with another medical professional then asking for money might be premature.

I won’t be paid because I have knowledge about medicine – clinical knowledge. If that’s all a consulting gig required then any number of doctors or residents could be pulled into a room and paid for their knowledge.

A medical consultant gets paid for how they can apply their knowledge to specific business problems. In order to do that, I have to understand the problem that is being addressed. Then I have to be able to successfully communicate that knowledge with that startup team in order to generate results.

2. Your Healthcare Client

When it’s a large medical group which you are dealing with, what matters most is pedigree, professionalism, and teamwork. Results matter but they are secondary.

Larger companies rely on their size and momentum and don’t need to focus as much on the competitive edge.

A healthcare startup will focus mostly on results. They will take a lot of risk in order to achieve a particular result. They, too, care about teamwork and professionalism and work/life balance but that’s further down the list.

When you are consulting for a large medical group then you should bill, bill, bill. Don’t offer anything for free and don’t expect any loyalty. The best way to get repeat work with a large medical group is to find a connection within the company or add more credentials to your name.

For a smaller startup, you will need to show results. You have to stick through the ups and downs of various projects. You have to be available and offer a lot more guidance than you think will be necessary, even if it’s frustrating at times to do so.

3. Working For Free

Ever since I got back from Barcelona, where I did my 10-day consulting gig, I have been helping the team out with about 2 hours of work per day.

I check in with the startup every morning for 15 minutes and we discuss the work I did for them the day before. The person whom I’m in touch with then tells me what they need next.

So, every day we check in, every day I do some work. I haven’t asked for any money and they haven’t offered me any money.

But I recognize which direction the project is going. There are certain milestones they are trying to reach. And they have no idea if the work I’m doing for them is completely useless or could be very profitable.

That’s why I am holding out. I have set a milestone for myself. I will continue offering them 2 hours of work every day for free until we reach the point where this project can be stress-tested.

If the results of the stress test are unfavorable then I’m fucked, it will reflect poorly on my skills. I would then step it up and do a brainstorming session with them in order to identify the problem, fix it, and set a new goal.

If the stress test is successful or the team recognizes potential for major success then I will ask for buy-in. I will see if the team still needs me from that point on. If they do, then I will gladly stay on at $125-150/hour.

Skipping the income might not be an intuitive move. After all, why should you give your knowledge away for free. By all means, if you’re able to earn money from healthcare consulting right away, charge money. But it’s not easy because your value to that company may not have been yet established.

It won’t take long for you to turn your free work into paid work. Startups are especially sensitive to this topic. They don’t want to do free work for anyone and won’t expect the same of you.

4. Asking To Be Paid

I have faith in my skills and believe that the project will have future potential. I doubt that the stress test will show jaw dropping results but it should point us in the right direction.

As soon as we test the system and we get some results, we will have another meeting to go over everything. At that point, if I am asked for more input or help, I will let them know what my terms are.

I would love to continue working on this project and I’m really happy that we had these favorable results so far. Would your budget afford me coming on for about 2 hours a day at a fair rate for the next few weeks/months? This will allow me to better budget my time with the other projects I’m involved with.

5. Getting Rejected

Let’s say that I get rejected. What are my options?

The best thing I can do is find out what other skills I need so that I can bring the team more value in the future. In fact, I have already inquired and have a huge list of things which I need to read up on.

Should I get rejected, should the team say “Dr. Mo, thank you so much for your help but your skills have proven a little less effective than what we need at our level. We wish you the best of luck.” then I will ask for referrals.

I will ask this medical startup if they could pass on my information to other healthcare startups. And I feel comfortable asking this because I know I’m not incompetent. Maybe my level of skills are subpar for this company, but they might be just right for a healthcare startup which is not as far along.

6. Communicating

Your consulting client isn’t omniscient and may not know how to utilize your knowledge best. I say knowledge because in the beginning of your healthcare consulting work you won’t have much skills but you’ll have a ton of healthcare related knowledge.

The more you communicate with each individual team member, the more likely they are to see value in you. You might find a single engineer who sees a ton of value in you even if the CEO may have overlooked it. That engineer is your ticket.

Part of healthcare consulting basics is to build yourself up and for that communication is key. There is a fine line between asking too many questions which might frustrate the team and being completely uninvolved.

7. Marketing

Communicating with the team is marketing as I demonstrated above. If you’re even halfway knowledgeable about clinical medicine, you can bring a lot to your client.

But let’s say you want more than 1 client. When you’re ready to reach out to other clients, you want to have more than just healthcare knowledge, you’ll need healthcare consulting skills.

The best way to market yourself to a new client is to shoot their HR an email. You can also send messages to the CEO on Linkedin. The more knowledge you have about that company, the better questions you can ask.

Each situation is different but part of healthcare consulting basics should be you reaching out to new companies every week. You can share something interesting with them or you can ask them a particular question to see if you can pique their interest.

Read of my consulting updates with one of my clients.

4 replies on “Healthcare Consulting Basics”

It’s incredibly cheap to get so it doesn’t hurt. But even if you are sued, the amounts for such lawsuits aren’t very high and they are often settled outside of a courtroom. So you can choose to either get the E&O or just cover the cost yourself.

Thanks for the info about healthcare consulting. I want to improve my lifestyle. I’ll consider healthcare consulting for my needs.

I have tried my best not to romanticize it. But it has a place for the right kind of physician. Those who have a topic they are passionate about and are comfortable sharing their advice with a particular business group or audience can make money in this field. So why not.

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