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7 Ways Physicians Can Get Involved In Health Tech and Innovation

On our physician communities, we often get the question of how physicians can get involved in health tech and innovation. This is a broad term and encompasses several catch phrases, each of which have some of their own overlap and subjectivity in meaning. But if you’ve been wondering how to get involved in health tech, digital health, or AI, there are lots of avenues, which range from some occasional side gig work to quitting your job and being the founder of a start up. We’ll touch on some popular ways below.

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Before we get into specific roles, know that many physicians in this space have taken a pretty wayward path to get their roles. Perhaps they went to business school and networked with founders or future founders who then asked them to join their companies, perhaps they have a friend from high school that started a company and convinced them to come on board, or perhaps they started dabbling in a space and built a brand, and then got invited to join a company. It’s important to figure out what exactly you are passionate about and just learn and network extensively in that space, and often opportunities will present themselves. Before we go on to the list, let’s address two common questions - pay and whether you need a special degree like an MBA to get involved in this space.

What Can I Expect To Be Paid as a Physician in the Health Technology Space?

As you would expect, the answer here is going to vary widely. If you’re the chief medical officer of a prominent technology company traded on NASDAQ, that’s very different than what you might make as a physician consultant with occasional gigs, a start up advisor, or even the founder of your own company. Most physicians in this space are not going to make what they could make clinically right off the bat, but the opportunities for growth can be pretty incredible. It's important to be realistic and tailor your expectations based on who you are going to get paid by - an established big tech company will have very different roles and funding than a startup, and in the case of startup advising, you may have a larger share of your compensation be paid in equity. Similarly, government positions, hospital positions, or your own company will be different.

Do I Need a Special Degree To Get Involved With the Health Tech Industry as a Physician?

Honestly, you probably don’t. It’s more about the experience you have, the brand you’ve built, or if you’re a key opinion leader or have an ‘in’ through a friend, colleague, or family member. Networking is huge in this arena. While we’d encourage you to get to know the fields so that you can speak competently and understand terminology and trends, you likely don’t need a specific degree such as an MBA for a lot of these roles. Coursera has a bunch of great courses in AI, many of which are free, which could give you the foundational knowledge that you need if you aren’t well versed in these spaces. We are big believers of just consuming as much information as you can. Another great way is to go to industry conferences such as HLTH or HIMSS, where you can get a sense of what’s happening in the field and also network. Other degrees or certifications could help demonstrate that you have a track record of interest and commitment in this space, especially since so many physicians are trying to get into this space, so they could help, but in our experience haven’t been essential, so think long and hard before spending years and 100,000s of additional dollars on your education. Everything you do as an opportunity cost, and there are no guarantees the degree will get you what you want, so only do it if you have additional reasons or personal desire to get the extra degree as well.

Roles for Physicians In the Healthcare Technology Industry

A summary of 7 ways for physicians to get involved in health tech and innovation, covered below.

1. Consulting

This is the most flexible way to get involved, and many physicians on our Physician Side Gigs Databases (must be a member to join) participate in these opportunities with companies in the healthcare innovation space regularly. We are often approached by companies seeking physician opinions, and match physicians with these opportunities. You can also find these opportunities on your own, by doing things such as creating a brand, being active on LinkedIn, and networking and going to relevant conferences and events. You generally get paid pretty well for these positions, with most of our physicians making at least $250/hour, but many making significantly more per hour. Know your worth in this space! A really nice thing about consulting is that often, your medical education is the only expertise that you need, although obviously the more niche or rare your knowledge base, the better you will be paid for it.We have a section of our webpage dedicated to FAQs and options for consulting opportunities for physicians, but briefly, these roles could involve beta testing products, providing insights into needs assessments.

2. Startup Advising

With so many companies innovating in this space, the opportunities to get involved with a startup are increasing daily. Keep in mind, the upfront pay here is not generally as good on an hourly basis, but there is a huge potential upside if you get significant equity in the company. Learn more about startup advising as a physician.

3. Chief Medical Officer of a Company

For those that are willing to turn this side gig into a more significant time commitment, often at least part time but ideally full time, you could consider becoming the chief medical officer. Some companies don’t have enough duties for a full time position, and we’ve seen some members taking fractional CMO roles at several companies. In this role, you generally provide the medical insight necessary to improve upon existing products and guide future decision making within the company from the perspective of a clinician. You may also be expected to be the public face of a medical product with relevant speaking, writing, or content creation, or present at sales meetings to answer medically related questions.  It’s an exciting role which allows you to have an impact at a greater level.

4. Venture Capitalist or Investor

Several physicians have become very active in the venture capital space. They are uniquely positioned to weed out good investment opportunities in the healthcare sector, which makes up ~20% of the nation’s GDP. While lots of ideas may sound good on pitch decks, it takes someone who’s had clinical experience to know what will be adapted by clinicians, hospital systems, and patients, and many venture capital companies rely on the expertise of their physician venture capitalists or investors to make sure ideas that are pitched to them have a reasonable chance of success before investing in them. Your roles can vary from actually being the one taking meetings and finding potential investment opportunities to doing more extensive due diligence and leveraging your networks to investigate these opportunities on a deeper level. If you are someone that loves networking and business, this could be a great (and potentially highly lucrative) way to get involved in health technology. Physicians in this space have usually gotten into it either via their networks or via an advanced degree such as an MBA and then doing internships at these companies.

5. Policy and Government Work

There are actually several positions for physicians within regulatory roles and otherwise. As this space expands, concerns about privacy, monopolies, and safety have become more prevalent, and this is an area the government is watching closely. We often see physicians working for the FDA, HHS, CMS, the NIH, and the CDC, but there are also roles on the state and local level. These are usually full time positions that may have you working in several different capacities, such as reviewing data or proposals, preparing briefs, or even testifying to lawmakers. 

6. Leadership Roles Within Your Healthcare System or Employer

Every hospital system is navigating healthcare technology and innovation on a daily basis, and this creates many roles within your own healthcare organization. These can range from informatics roles (such as Chief Informatics Officer), innovation roles (such as Chief Innovation Officer), or parts of committees (purchasing, privacy, security, patient safety, and quality are some examples),.  Several hospital systems have a venture capital arm where they are investing in innovative products in development, and physician input is often sought here as well. These roles can be in addition to your clinical responsibilities or constitute full time roles, and compensation can vary widely. The full time positions are generally paid quite well, especially if you reach the C-suite level. 

7. Founder of a Healthcare Related Startup

If you’ve got a great idea, the persistence to take an idea to reality, and the financial means to take some risk, being the founder of a healthcare related startup is a really exciting way to immerse yourself in the healthcare technology ecosystem. This warrants its own article, but understand that most startups fail, but the upside to building a successful product is huge, both in terms of impact and financially. It’s not an easy road, but many of us have great ideas for what is needed in healthcare, and if you’re in the position to create something from scratch, we think there’s nobody better than physicians to lead innovation in this space (admittedly, we are biased!). We love seeing what our physician founders are up to, and always love featuring them on our entrepreneurship event series..

A common interest we see for healthcare startups is in the app development space. To learn more about this specific type of opportunity, visit our creating an app page.

A Few Tips for Getting Started

Well, if we’ve inspired you to pursue some of these goals, what’s next? As we alluded to, most physicians in tech will admit they had a very wayward path to getting there. It usually starts with an interest in a specific topic, tailoring down a niche in which you really want to take a deep dive, and then networking and learning heavily within that space. Once you’ve decided where you’d like to focus, we recommend:

  • Define your expertise so that it’s clear to others what your value proposition is. Brand yourself by creating a website that showcases your qualifications and expertise, getting involved on social media platforms where these things are often discussed such as LinkedIn or X, and outlining the unique perspectives and value propositions that you can bring to a company. If you are a well known researcher in a field or have a social media following in a certain niche, highlight yourself as a key opinion leader.

  • Network and gain relevant experience. This is where sweat equity comes in. Often, these are out of pocket expenses, or at the very least, have an opportunity cost. Networking takes time and energy and you should be intentional about who you reach out to and have objectives set for each conversation. Find mentors and pick their brains for events to attend or intros to people that could help you on your journey. You may find yourself giving unpaid advice in hopes that companies will see your value and offer you a broader role. You may end up paying conference fees or for access to networks relevant to your area of interest. 

  • Go for it. With all the people looking to get into this space, you can’t be passive and hope something lands in your lap. You will have to put yourself out there and pitch yourself as someone that people want on their team with unique expertise. Apply for speaking positions, ask your networks to introduce you to people who are hiring, get on relevant podcasts, submit articles or content to media outlets or other popular venues. You need to be seen in order for people to offer you opportunities! Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while - presumably, you’re in this space because you enjoy it, so take time to refine your expertise and your networks, and be patient.


We hope this helps you think about ways to get started in the healthcare technology space! If you have more questions, feel free to discuss them on our physician communities, where so many physicians have navigated this space successfully and are happy to help!

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