More than 60% of physicians in the U.S. now work for someone other than themselves. The reasons include lifestyle choices, generational work-life attitudes, the increasing costs and hassles of managing a private practice and hospitals wanting to grab ACO dollars.
SoPE Box: Getting to yes - Engaging your docs in technology transfer
A byproduct of employing large numbers of doctors is the opportunity to identify and develop their ideas and monetize them. Because employer hospitals, when properly structured, have the intellectual property rights to ideas, inventions and discoveries of their employees, they should create technology transfer structure, policies and procedures to identify, package, vet and develop those intellectual property assets, similar to what technology transfer offices do at most major research universities.
The barriers to medical staff participation in commercialization efforts are substantial and include 1) increasing clinical, teaching and administrative demands on staff time; 2) little value placed on commercial research and development efforts; 3) lack of recognition for commercialization efforts; 4) a gap in understanding the differences between a community based healthcare and industrial culture; 6) lack of sufficient financial incentives to motive staff to participate in the process; 8) lack of knowledge, skills and abilities to participate in more complicated aspects, such as spinout formation; and 9) weak internal and external networks that leave medical staff unaware of the commercial opportunities available and the accomplishments of their colleagues.
Encouraging your medical staff to participate in technology transfer activities depends on three core strategies: creating supportive ecosystems and an entrepreneurial culture and making staff aware of technology transfer opportunities, removing barriers to participation and reinforcing success.
Hospitals should create an ecosystem that supports innovation and facilitates technology transfer and commercialization. Using internal marketing communications channels, websites and other vehicles, they should move those on their medical staff who are interested in life science technology commercialization from awareness to intention to decision to action. Hospital administrators should work with clinical champions and respected opinion leaders to motivate others to participate and provide clinical bio-entrepreneurs with the connections and support they need to move their ideas forward.
Once staff are engaged and committed to the process, you need to remove the barriers to participation and create incentives to participate. In addition to favorable revenue splits to inventors, incentives include peer recognition events, time off to pursue commercialization efforts, key performance indicators that recognize entrepreneurial activities, and knowledge transfer and exchange programs such as internships and sabbaticals in industry.
Celebrating success and exhorting the heart are key to leading technology transfer success. By using social media, public relations outlets, internal communications devices and special events, leadership can highlight even the smallest successes and leverage them to encourage larger accomplishments. Part of building the culture of entrepreneurship involves having an ecosystem that champions the accomplishments of life science entrepreneurs on a regular basis. Internal and external marketing techniques should be repetitive, redundant (same message using different media), and relational (linking one message to another, e.g. a news release linking to the TTO website) so that staff members become "owners" and recognize entrepreneurship as a valued pathway to success.
Filling the funnel with medical staff ideas that have commercial potential depends on a growing research or clinical base stimulating discovery, policies and structure that stimulates use, an entrepreneurial culture that encourages and rewards participation, and marketing and public relations mechanisms to celebrate success and spotlight champions. Each hospital or hospital system has local and regional assets and constraints and will need to develop their tactics based on their individual resources, strengths and opportunities. By emulating best practices from other universities, research organizations and healthcare service organizations around the world, however, community-based hospitals can stimulate deal and idea flow.
Dr. Arlen Meyers is professor of otolaryngology, engineering and dentistry at the University of Colorado and founder, CEO and president of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.
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