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In good company

January 2016
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Published in the January 2016 issue of Today’s

HAVE AN IDEA FOR A PRODUCT OR SERVICE that you think can improve patient care, but you don’t know how to develop it? It turns out you’re not alone.

Helping practicing physicians bring their ideas to fruition “and to market “was the reason behind the founding of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE). The group, which was created in 2011 and has about 1,000 members, provides resources including education, networking, mentors and access to investors.

Despite its name, only about half the group’s members are physicians. The rest include entrepreneurs, technology experts, patient advocates and service providers interested in improving patient care.”Doctors have really good ideas, but they don’t know what to do with them,” explains Arlen Meyers, MD, the CEO of the group and a retired otolaryngologist who now practices and teaches physician entrepreneurship. Dr. Meyers is also a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado. “We created a platform for members to do something to get their ideas to patients.”

“Doctors have really good ideas, but they don’t know what to do with them.”

~ Arlen Myers, MD 

“We created it that way intentionally,” says Dr. Meyers, “because we didn’t believe that health care can be fixed only from the inside. It has to include other people outside of sick care.” The group has also intentionally kept its membership dues at a low $50 a year. “Dues are ridiculously cheap to keep people involved.”

The Society has close to two dozen national and international chapters that hold face-to-face meetings. It also participates in meetings of other organizations that have overlapping missions, like telemedicine and biopharma.

What kinds of products and services has the organization helped its members launch? The list ranges from medical devices, like a catheter to dislodge objects from children’s noses and ears, to an online service that patients can use to communicate with their physicians.

And while the term “physician entrepreneur” may evoke images of a solo doctor launching a business, Dr. Meyers says the group can be particularly helpful to physicians like hospitalists.

“We refer to these physicians as ‘intrapreneurs,’ ” he says, “because they are tasked with adding value to and innovating for their organization. We specifically address their needs “and intrapreneurs have a more difficult challenge than entrepreneurs. They fight a two-front war: Not only do they have to create and get a product to market, but they often have to fight the bureaucracy and the culture of their organization.”

More information is online at www.sopenet.org.