Non-clinical service businesses doctors can start
We don’t all have the next big, industry changing idea for healthcare delivery. And we don’t all have the creativity or drive to invent and develop a new medical device. But these by no means are the only businesses doctors can start.
Any doctor can start and run and successful, profitable business. Small businesses that offer a service as their product are a perfect solution for many physicians wanting to:
- earn extra income,
- share their knowledge,
- help with challenges faced by people or companies,
- have more autotomy in their work.
This article and it’s counterpart describe two main types of service-oriented solopreneurship ventures for physicians – businesses geared toward individual consumers and businesses that market to other businesses.
Below are several examples of business-to-consumer (B2C) ideas that may be complementary to a physician’s lifestyle and interests.
Benefits and business models
The categories that follow focus on businesses that provide services to individuals. Your customers can be either the general population or other healthcare professionals. If you enjoy working with patients, you may be drawn more to a business model that serves those wanting to improve their health – either because they’re healthy and want to stay that way, or because they already have a diagnosis and have needs related to it aside from medical treatment.
There are a few benefits to starting a personal business over one that provides services to other businesses or organizations:
- It’s easy to advertise to the general public
- There are less industry-specific background info and norms to learn
- You communicate directly with the customer, rather than having to navigate your way through an organization to find a decision-maker
So let’s take a look at some business types to get your own ideas flowing.
Health and wellness coaching
I’ve written previously about coaching for physicians as a career opportunity. It doesn’t have to be your full-time work, though. You can start a successful coaching business on the side while doing other work. It can stay small. Or, if it does well and you’re enjoying yourself, you can put in some additional effort down the road to turn it into your full-time focus.
What can you coach your customers on? Think about what gets you excited when you talk to people, what areas of your life you’ve been successful in, and what topics you’re knowledgeable about. Some possibilities of interest to physicians include:
- Career coaching for other physicians
- Application and interview coaching for aspiring medical professionals
- Health coaching for people who need to lose weight
- Fitness coaching for competitive athletes
- Productivity and organizational coaching for healthcare executives
As a couple of examples, Dr. Dike Drummond of The Happy MD has established a very well-regarded physician burnout coaching program. And Dr. Susan Biali Haas describes herself as a “medical doctor, nutritionist, life coach, and late-blooming flamenco dancer.” She coaches individuals on balancing work and life, coping with stress, and living more healthfully.
A business of running retreats is quite similar to health and wellness coaching in that you might offer similar information and skills training to customers. The big differences is that it’s done in a group setting with a lot of material packed into a short period of time – typically a few days. If you don’t have the flexibility to have calls with customers throughout the day on your normal schedule, a coaching business would be tough. Hosting retreats can be easier to implement for physicians who are busy day-to-day with a full-time job but who can take chunks of time off now and then.
For healthcare professionals, retreat business ideas include:
- Yoga retreats
- Relationship-strengthening retreats for couples
- Leadership retreats
- Healthy living retreats
Another key difference between retreats and coaching is that retreats are conducive to hands-on instruction. Cooking demonstrations, spa services, or guided hikes, for example, are all possibilities that require in-person presence.
You’ve been though a lot of formal education. You’re full of knowledge. If you like teaching and mentoring, tutoring offers a rewarding, flexible, and profitable business foundation. In most cases, you’ll be able to take on customers only to the extent that you have the availability. There’s also the option to hire additional tutors to help you.
Medical test prep tutoring is just one option to consider, and could include:
- MCAT tutoring for college students
- USMLE tutoring for medical students
Tutoring services can be provided in the student’s home, your own home, a public place such as a library or café, a school, or even virtually using a service like Skype.
Personalized nutrition and diet plans
A lot of people struggle to follow a healthy diet without some sort of assistance. People like a diet plan that’s laid out for them, and that makes dieting easier than meticulously counting calories meal after meal. It’s easy enough for a physician to develop a basic diet plan, and then tailor it for customers’ needs and goals.
On the surface it seems that the diet industry is saturated. But many diet plans are really bad, and just as many others aren’t individualized. Customers will appreciate a diet plan and associated services from a medical professional who understands nutrition and how it relates to health and disease. You can consider focusing on a niche within this space, such as:
- People with diabetes
- Pregnant women
- Athletes and body builders
- Kids with food allergies
This type of service can be offered for a one-time fee, or on a monthly or subscription basis. Cost structure and price depends on the extent of personalization you offer, as well as any instruction or other materials you offer with the plan.
Healthcare system navigation services
Many patients have a minimal understanding of how our healthcare system works. Some have a solid understanding, but don’t have the time or desire to “work the system” to meet their needs. High-income individuals are often willing to pay for services above and beyond their basic health insurance to ensure they receive the care they need and want. A business based on this theme might include:
- Assistance in identifying and gaining access to a medical specialist
- Coordinating care for customers with complex diseases
- Medical records collection
- Personalized medical literature research
This idea is more closely connected to the actual practice of medicine than the other business ideas in this post. If you start a business offering this type of service, be sure you’re clear with yourself (and then with your customers) as to whether your business is technically offering medical advice and whether you’re participating in the practice of medicine.
More business ideas
For those more interested in offering services to businesses rather than individual consumers, check out part 2 of this article.
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