I am doing healthcare consulting for 2 clients, both are healthcare startups. I serve as a clinical consultant for one and I do administrative work for the other.
I can’t share all the details of what I do for compliance reasons but I’ll update you guys with whatever I can. If you’re interesting in being a healthcare consultant or hire your own healthcare consultant in the future, this should be interesting.
Since this is an update, I’ll also share my own career plans in regards to this consulting work.
Finding my consulting clients
I found both of my consulting clients by interviewing with as many companies as possible. Much of this for telemedicine, others for medical director positions.
Back in 2016, when I retired from full-time urgent care medicine, I started looking for telemedicine work. During my interview process a few companies asked if I would be interested in something other than direct telemedicine work. Fuck yes, I was!
After a few brainstorming conversations, these 2 clients felt that I would do well consulting for them. They initially ran a few things by me for free, felt that I knew my shit or at least communicated well, then they decided to pay me for my knowledge.
Since then I have tried finding new consulting clients, but, for several reasons, I haven’t been able to recruit anyone else. Probably because:
- I’m not sufficiently diligently looking for new clients
- don’t sell myself well to new companies
- not motivated to do more consulting
- many consulting gigs are just disguises for sales work
Healthcare consulting as a career
Being a full-time healthcare consultant is viable. There are plenty of opportunities for the right candidate.
I’ve discussed in previous posts the skills necessary to thrive in such a position. From understanding the healthcare payers to HIPAA laws to understanding AI technology. This is all on top of mastery of clinical work and patient workflows.
Such a career can eventually lead to a chief medical officer role or CEO of a healthcare startup, if you’re interested.
To get new clients and build this career, you need to market yourself well and publish a little. Which means that you have to fight to get your name on white papers and publish on relevant websites.
Client #1 – AI startup
My first client is an artificial intelligence healthcare startup and they are doing really interesting things with disease prediction.
They haven’t yet locked in on their first big client but if they do, they will likely do well.
My work involves sitting down with the engineer on the phone or in person and programming the machine learning algorithm needed to process the clinical information collected from patients.
We then have to figure out how to best ask these questions to the patient, how to fish the data out of charts, and then figure out the logistics of rolling this out.
What I haven’t enjoyed as much – even though I’ve learned a lot from it – is the sales part of the consulting job. It’s not hard, it’s just a lot of scut work.
2 months ago I was in charge of finding patients on whom we could test our software. We found those patients and next I was tasked with building the workflow for the testing.
When those projects ended, I was responsible for finding partner clinics to help us roll out the software.
I’ve been calling multiple private medical groups to gauge their interest. I’ve contacted friends and former colleagues.
I’ve managed to find one interested office out of all of the calls I’ve made and emails sent. It’s tedious getting the office manager or medical director on the phone. Or I’m just not good at it.
Looking back, I likely would have not taken this project on. Even though it needs to be done by a physician, I could have passed up on it and either brought in a colleague to do it, or bounced the task back to the startup to deal with.
Client #2 – AI startup
This second client is also AI based, using a learning algo to predict which medications should be used for patients with depression/anxiety/bipolar disorder based on their unique risk factors.
I came on help with the clinical aspect but got pulled into admin and took on more of a medical director, which I’m not terribly excited about.
When I touch base with leadership, there doesn’t seem to be any emphasis placed on advancing the AI platform. Their priorities have changed ever since they onboarded new clients.
This company did really well early on and got a lot of clients. Unfortunately, early financial success in a startup often signal eventual failure. The startup focuses on the revenue model and neglects the initial idea, the bigger goal. They get a few clients and are passified.
My consulting career
My brief, 2-year, consulting career has been fascinating. I’ve met interesting entrepreneurs, I’ve made lasting connections, and I’ve learned a ton.
A recent payment disagreement with one of my clients made me rethink whether I want to continue putting more effort into healthcare consulting.
After all, getting paid is one of the best parts.
- Is it worth my effort?
- Where will I go with it in the future?
- Would I be excited to wake up to the work every day?
I won’t stop consulting but I won’t pursue it full-time. Looking back over my previous posts, it was never something I wanted to do full-time. And with the many other options on the table, it’s not something I need for income at this time.
I can still stay involved with both of these startups and have them run stuff by me. I would be a non-paid member of their board of directors. This provides me with some authority in my field, I get to do what I enjoy without the financial pressure, and I bad my resume.
I don’t want to make a bad name for myself, so I will continue working with both companies, but I will decrease my hourly commitment and raise my rates.
I’ll do this slowly so that I don’t cause them any stress, but fast enough so that I don’t feel like I’m being taken for granted.
Remember, as a healthcare consultant you’re not an employee. You’re your own boss. If you’re feeling undervalued, something is wrong, it needs to be addressed, and that will be beneficial to both parties.
Healthcare consulting as a profession
If you’re interested in doing healthcare consulting professionally, I would advise you to reach for the lowest hanging fruit; reach out to your current employer and inquire about any consulting opportunities.
Start with your employer
Get involved in the implementation of a project or come up with a project idea you could lead.
Think of it like this: if someone in the future asks you about that project during a job interview, would it demonstrate your skills as a consultant or project manager?
Eventually you’ll find a niche you enjoy learning more about. Then start developing an expertise in that particular topic which will make marketing yourself that much easier.
Every-single-company, regardless of size, has to implement a new workflow or research a new project to see if it’s worth implementing. So the bigger the organization, the more such opportunities are available.
Don’t think that as a medical professional you aren’t the right candidate for this. In fact, you likely have been the victim of workflow changes as an employee. If you think it could have been done better, there is your opportunity right there.
Nature of healthcare consulting work
The work flexibility is great. The practice risk is minimal. The sales tasks can be tedious. Interactions with other team members can be fascinating. The learning is phenomenal. The income is good. The projects can be hit or miss.
If you do something like this long enough, you’ll eventually be known as the go-to person for your field of expertise.
Stay on top of your field. Read the latest news & research, because your clients will depend on you to know the latest in your field.
I always assumed that my clients knew the most about artificial intelligence, healthcare systems, payment models, clinical workflows. No, fuck no. They know enough to sound competent. There is always some value I can bring to the table.
Finally, I recommend that you speak up. A startup usually is dominated by 2-3 individuals and information gets pinballed back and forth between them but doesn’t make it out to anyone else.
You’re the consultant and you have to market yourself as such – even to the client who is already paying you. Make the company aware of what they don’t know.
Consider putting on a weekly presentation on topics you know – something as simple as: “The workflow for checking in a patient into the clinic.” or “Medical decision making for a patient with vague symptoms.” Obviously, you’ll have to figure out what fits your client’s project.