3 tips for community physicians with the innovation itch

Community physicians operating outside the confines of large academic medical centers could be key players in driving healthcare innovation.

Community physicians represent a rich, and largely untapped, resource for healthcare innovation.

The massive changes taking place in the healthcare industry have come about in part as a way to drive innovation, writes Adam O. Kadlec, M.D., a board-certified urologist at Western Michigan Urological Associates, in a blog post for NEJM Catalyst. From mandates related to the Affordable Care Act to the promise of new technologies like precision medicine and the possibilities unleashed by big data, he sees a push toward “an entirely new paradigm for care.”

As a practicing urologist who works outside the clusters of major medical centers in urban areas such as Boston or San Francisco, Kadlec sees a wealth of expertise that could guide innovation efforts, if it could be mobilized. Community physicians see patient populations with more quotidian conditions than their colleagues at big-name academic medical centers. Furthermore, those who chose their practice location for better work-life balance likely have more time to commit to making healthcare processes more efficient, he says.

Here are a few of Kadlec's tips to help inspire community physicians to get more involved:

  • Understand the process. An entrepreneurial mindset can help to understand the true roots of innovation. Kadlec suggests physicians seek out books and online courses that examine the intersection between entrepreneurship and healthcare innovation.
  • Don’t underestimate your capability. Ambitious physicians tend to gravitate toward academic medical centers, so it may make sense to partner with a major center, but community doctors need to understand upfront that they can and should play a part in the process, he says.
  • Network with like-minded docs. A variety of organizations of all sizes have begun to launch innovation hubs, both in their physical locations and online. Kadlec recommends interested physicians attend conferences and seek out opportunities to connect with other innovators.