The easiest way to get into any field is to start doing it for free first. If you are good at what you do, the market will always reimburse you for your skills. Can you demand a solid pay right off the bat doing healthcare/medical consulting? Maybe, but you better have an impressive pedigree.
In this post I will talk about a few points to consider when it comes to launching a healthcare consulting career. I’m sure there are many ways of getting started but here is my take on it from personal and observed experiences.
Defining Healthcare Consulting
Imagine a scenario where 2 individuals are talking at a cafe and they are brainstorming on how to invest some of their capital in the medical industry. They come up with some ideas but don’t know how much demand there would be for this outpatient or inpatient service or product. They can get online and do a search and but they would have to filter through a lot of bullshit.
Instead, they decide to call this ‘physician they know who happens to have a good grasp of what medicine is like on the ground’. That would be you. You may not have all the answers but you can either find out or you can put them in touch with the right people.
So where is the money? Not every touch will generate immediate income. Instead, you serve many roles and wear many hats. You are a detective, a connector, a medical dictionary at times or a prototype tester.
It’s not just your knowledge in your particular specialty that’s sought after. You may be asked to:
- collaborate with other physicians
- hire the right staff who can lead a project
- do extensive research on a particular topic
- give presentations
- resolve a conflict
- guide the direction of expansion
- provide technological expertise
- identify needs
- pilot projects
- help design implementation plans
- negotiate contracts
- review investment ideas
- analyze financial documents
- collaborate with lawyers, executives, engineers, and investors
Leading With Pedigree
If you have graduated from an impressive medical school and have an MBA or JD after your name then you might be able to gain entry into healthcare consulting without needing to do a lot of resume building.
If you have experience leading other healthcare professionals, hiring, teaching or managing systems then be sure to use that as your key to open many doors. No need to promise anything, simply let your expertise and skills shine. Let the client decide how best to use you.
Leading With Results
If you are someone who has already done a lot of work for their residency, their medical group or even unrelated organizations, be sure to jot those down. It’s easy to forget the things you’ve done over the years if you don’t keep track of it.
I have 3 copies of my resume in my cloud folder. There is a polished one which is generic enough that I can send it to any organization at the drop of a hat. There is one that allows me to make particular edits in case I want to highlight one thing more than another. Finally, I have a rough draft resume where I constantly add bullet points of things I’ve done, no matter how insignificant. I can later polish and add those to the final resumes.
Offer Your Work For Free
If you think healthcare consulting might one day interest you, then start now by talking to the leadership in your medical group or companies that you are aware of and see what you could do for them. Try to be less of a medical student and think more like a senior resident – lead by identifying problems and seek permission to help resolve them.
In the urgent care department at my old medical group, every single affiliate clinician who has wanted to take on a leadership role has either led or followed their request by asking how much they would be paid for their services.
If a startup tells you that they need someone who knows their way around UMLS and you happen to know shit about it but find it interesting, then guess what, you can learn a little about it and that might become your niche. Bonus point: you have 20 different articles and research papers published on the subject in a matter of months.
When you offer your work for free you start making meaningful connections. When you make connections, genuine individuals will give you constructive feedback to help you improve. They will then refer you to other companies and that’s when you will start making money.
Pad Your Resume
Yes, pad your resume! Include every little thing you do but don’t be petty. If you help a group with something that might even seem small to you, note it, expand on it and bring it up with your clients.
Again, your clients may have a specific need which is why you connected with them. However, during the interview process they may realize that they can use you for something completely unrelated based on your experience.
If you talk yourself up too much and don’t deliver then that might be the end of your healthcare consulting career. If you can’t highlight your talents then your potential may never recognize your value.
Start Locally – Or Go Traditional
There are companies out there who act as the intermediate to get your skills in front of clients needing medical consulting work. However, I can’t find a good argument to convince myself that it would be worthwhile using such a group.
It’s like using a locum firm to find you working gigs. It can certainly make sense if you have absolutely no idea how to reach out to medical groups located in a destination of your choice. You will also have to conform to their standards and their contracts.
If you are the inventive type then all you need to do is ping the company you are interested in doing healthcare consulting for and tell them what you have to offer. Worst case scenario? They don’t need your help but may keep you in mind.
The traditional route would be searching for medical consulting jobs. These may or may not be found under the job listings of a medical group or organization. The best way would be to call the company to find out what healthcare consulting jobs are available.
A good place to start is with your medical board in your State.
Branch Out Towards Startups
Medical or health related startups are plentiful. Some are led with the intention to make the most amount of money possible and others are designed to make meaningful change in medicine.
You will meet scoundrels and incredibly passionate individuals. You will talk to those who are overly optimistic and those with an amazing vision but clueless about what it’s like to be on the ground, practicing medicine.
There are a ton of websites that you can go to in order to discover startups and their focus. Startup+Health is just an example. The nature of any industry is that once you find 1 resource, it’s really easy to follow the chain to hundreds more.
You may not mislead a group intentionally. The first few gigs you get involved in will help you better understand the boundaries of the client/consultant relationship. It’s easy to even unintentionally make misleading claims.
Understand that you do not have to be a world expert in practicing your specialty in order to offer the kind of helpful services needed by your client. You can be completely honest but of course demonstrate that you have the willingness to acquire the knowledge needed or put in the work necessary to make a project succeed.
The advantage of not charging money at first or charging very little is that you can afford to be honest. There are a few common misleading pitfalls:
- Don’t mislead when it comes to time commitment.
- Don’t mislead when it comes to what you know.
- Don’t mislead when it comes to a deadline.
- Don’t mislead yourself when a project starts morphing into something you are no longer interested in.
The Interview – It’s About The Interview
Of course, you need to make a good impression on that first virtual interview. Listing your credentials, telling them why you want the medical consulting gig and coming across friendly and competent are all important factors.
Even more, be sure to ask about the project and what the company wants to achieve. They might be bringing you on in order to optimize a specific arm of a system or want you to design and execute a new system.
Once you’re done, whether the interview resulted in a possible job offer or nothing at all, give them your contact information. Direct them to your website, as I discussed in this post. Let them know that you are constantly diversifying your skillset and would like to help them in any way possible in the future.
Remember also that you have far more to offer than what you think you can. Our work is so specialised that even the clients sometimes don’t know what we know and what we can offer. Try to unravel the topic as much as you can, if nothing else, you will help brainstorm with the person on the phone.
Give Information Out For Free
I will keep stressing that it’s important to have your own platform, your own storefront, if you will. I think your name is the best domain name to have on the web. On that site you can have all sorts of information. You can share all your knowledge there – it’s a live resume.
When you start teaching others about what you learn you are only making your network broader and stronger. You will get your name out and you will produce from a perspective of abundance as opposed to a scarcity mindset. Collaboration will always strengthen your skills.
So when will you know to charge for your work? When the company you are consulting for starts feeling bad that you are doing all this work for free.
Refer Your Friends
When it comes to giving information out for free there is another incredibly powerful tool you can have at your disposal – your network.
If you know other physicians who might be able to do the work that was offered to you more effectively, refer your client to them. Make connections and others will return the favor.
How To Set Your Consulting Price
The simplest answer to how to set your price is to look at the value you create. If your consulting work creates $1,000,000 in profits for a company then a $100,000 fee is quite reasonable.
However, consulting isn’t that concrete. Projects are broken down into steps. In the beginning a project may be nothing more than an idea that hasn’t been tested. In time, that project is going to gain traction and suddenly become successful – it will become easier and easier to put a price tag on the return on investment.
Also, look at the amount of time you invest. If in doubt, never charge less than your currently hourly wage as a physician. If you are earning $120/hour and want to charge $500/hour then understand that a company will assume that you are placing a value on yourself of around $1,000,000 (2,000 hours a year @ $500/hr). Few executives command that kind of income and they have far more responsibility than a consultant.
Consulting As A Means To An End
Consulting work can be done full-time or as a side hustle or part-time. It can lead into a permanent non-consulting gig or it might help you launch your own company.
I would guess that most of us don’t know what we want to do with consulting until we sink our teeth into it. If you really enjoy it and decide to do it full-time, it might be worthwhile to establish a consulting brand. I don’t know anything about it other than there are well-known consulting firms that my medical group brings in to optimize their systems.
My buddy, the chief of the Urgent Care department, and I were just talking about how ineffective this consulting team was that was hired by KP. Yet they certainly were paid top dollar for their input.
I suspect many Chief Medical Officers started out consulting. Probably doing some administrative work in their group, followed by some leadership and eventually consulting.
Find Your Niche
Want to know what to focus on? I recommend that you find some well-known medical consulting companies and peruse their website. Read their blogs regularly. They will be identifying the topics which are most relevant to their customers.
You don’t have to be a physician. Healthcare consulting or medical consulting can be offered by anyone who really gets healthcare. Subscribing to healthcare news, attending conferences and being aware of healthcare startups is a must. If you’re a pharmacist, dentist, PA, NP, RN, or RT, you can bring value to healthcare.
Don’t know where to start? Go on LinkedIn and review medical consulting profiles and see what they do, who they’ve worked with. Find someone in your area and take them out for lunch or drinks and pick their brain. The truly competent are never fearful of competition.