Doctors Enter a New Era of Work in 2021

In a previously change-resistant system with rising costs, we explore the impact of doctors in non-clinical jobs, why doctors are diverging from traditional clinical work to increase systemic progress and create impact at scale .

Now more than ever, companies are demanding doctors (MD/MBBS) who have firsthand clinical experience to contribute to public health policy, digital health startups, consulting, education and research. It is also easier than ever for doctors to connect with these companies and find non-clinical career opportunities with sites like MedSeekr

TABLE OF CONTENTS
  • The rising costs of healthcare
  • Baumol’s cost of disease
  • Regulation and innovation slowdown 
  • Social inertia and resistance to change amongst healthcare personnel 
  • A positive perspective 
  • How doctors can contribute to the healthcare system at scale. 

Image credits: Michal Bednarski

The rising costs of healthcare

Dramatic shifts in our digital and service-focused economy are separating capital intensive industries into two groups. 

In the first group – Agile, relentlessly efficient industries with falling prices, whereby consumers have grown accustomed to paying less for more. Think consumer tech, e-commerce, media and entertainment. 

In the second group – Misaligned industries where products/services could be delivered at a lower price or higher impact, subsequently costing more for the same quality. Think healthcare, construction and education. For healthcare in particular, you would expect services to become cheaper because of technology and globalisation. Instead they’re getting more expensive, with prices rising much faster than inflation. 

Why is this the case?

Baumol’s cost of disease

One explanation is Baumol's cost of disease. Basically, these industries get more expensive because wages are going up, even though labour productivity isn't, largely to offset the gains in other industries. Put differently, as technology increases productivity of workers in group 1 industries, group 2 has to pay their workers more to compete. That's why salaries in healthcare are rising disproportionately to the rate at which labour productivity is increasing. This seems to be partly true, but not the entire story.


Regulation and the innovation slowdown 

Healthcare is one of the most heavily regulated industries, second only to nuclear energy. Both private and government policies uniquely influence the sector in ways that make them neither market driven, nor fully government provided. In this intermediated market structure, the intention of “the patient being the customer” gets lost. While regulation is necessary and policies support innovation, these prescriptive standards can act as a barrier to entry, slow down progress and stifle creativity. 

Social inertia and resistance to change amongst healthcare personnel 

Systemic change intensifies pressure on workers to learn continually and, in some cases, transition into entirely new and emerging fields. Bringing in cost cutting new processes means equipping the novice with high competency, and diminishing the expert back down to novice status. At senior levels in healthcare, uptake of cost-effective change may be met with resistance. 

 

A positive perspective 

But rising healthcare costs are not inherently negative. Positive justifications are in abundance, and you could reframe it entirely as a “wage bonus”. As we are simply giving more people access to services, more patients = more students = more staff  → total cost goes up because we serve more and employ more. Healthcare workers earn more thus attracting the best talent to those professions, ensuring greater quality of care. 

Rapid growth in a heavily regulated sector IS possible. The pandemic has shown us that healthcare can certainly be an upwardly mobile, innovation-lead industry.  In a few months, we’ve begun delivering telemedicine aided by more flexible regulation, new workflows have been developed to increase critical care capacity, weak links in the medical supply chain have been addressed. 


How doctors can contribute to healthcare progress, at scale. 

Now more than ever, companies are demanding doctors (MD/MBBS) who have firsthand clinical experience to contribute to public health policy, digital health startups, consulting, education and research. It is also easier than ever for doctors to connect with these companies and find non-clinical career opportunities with sites like MedSeekr

For these companies, employing the right medical expert in-house means health policies can be implemented faster, medical devices or software can be developed with a patient centric approach, and research projects are propelled forward. This rising industry tide will ultimately lift the efficiency of the healthcare system, diversify the range of career opportunities open to medical experts and create impact at scale. 

“It’s like a call to action that allows us to launch more disruptive models of care” says Dr Pravene Nath (MD). Having transitioned out of clinical medicine early in his career, he’s since dedicated the majority of his career evolving the health ecosystem, previously working as Chief Information Officer & Chief Digital Officer and Stanford . He is now Global Head of Digital Health Strategy in Personalised Healthcare at Roche. “It won’t work for us only to build digital tools and expect that they will be adopted into existing clinical practices. We need to redesign the ecosystem.” 

More content on the healthcare industry, tech, R&D and coming soon.

Watch this space. 


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