3 ways for doctors to earn money on the side

By Aine Cryts

Whether they're struggling to pay down medical school debt or a big mortgage or they're helping their children pay for college, doctors have options if they want to increase their earnings, reports Medscape.

Opportunities include providing expert testimony in legal cases to treating prisoners to inventing a device that helps patients, according to the article. While it can be financially rewarding, some doctors also say the insight they gain translates into better care for their own patients.

"I really enjoy the work," Karen Josephson, M.D., a Long Beach, California-based geriatrician, told Medscape of her role as a medical expert for law firms. "It makes me a better doctor because I have a chance to see what other physicians have done and think about how I could have done it better."

To avoid the perception of being a "hired gun," doctors who provide expert testimony to lawyers should continue to maintain their clinical practice, according to SEAK, a Falmouth, Massachusetts-based company that trains physicians to become expert witnesses. Josephson told Medscape that she earns $2,000 to $5,000 for each case.

Medscape offers several other suggestions on how physicians can earn money on the side. Here are two of them:

Deliver care to prisoners. Healthcare spending per inmate has increased dramatically, partly driven by court decisions pushing prisons to deliver better care to inmates and partly because of a $7.7 million increase in Medicaid spending, according to the article. Michael Puerini, M.D., a Salem, Oregon-based family physician has cared for patients in correctional facilities for about 25 years and told the news outlet that the environment is even safer than the average hospital emergency department. Still, doctors must be aware that, in addition to high addiction rates, many prisoners also have complicated medical issues such as HIV, cancer, hepatitis C and emphysema, Puerini told Medscape.

Three advantages of caring for prisoners: the pay is competitive, malpractice risk is lower, and there's very little paperwork involved, according to the article.

Conduct independent medical exams. The part-time work involves performing comprehensive history and physical exams to determine whether the patient is qualified to receive payments for worker's compensation, auto insurance, health insurance or Social Security, according to the article. It also means patients may be antagonistic. But the money is good, David P. Kalin, M.D., a family physician and independent medical examiner in Florida, told the publication. He charges between $100 and $500 an hour, depending on the payer.

To learn more:
- read the article
- check out SEAK's advice

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