Fast-growing nonprofit helps doctors innovate

America’s health-care system is broken — and physicians are in a unique position to help repair it.

That’s the mission behind an 18-month-old nonprofit, the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, which wants to turn doctors into innovators.

The nonprofit went from 50 people in a meeting room at the University of Colorado in Denver to more than 3,900 members worldwide in the past year. It’s launched a new online magazine and created a virtual networking site for physicians who want to innovate, who want to become more involved with health care as a whole — not simply with caring for the patients in front of them.

“The basic idea we’re trying to promote is that doctors can help fix the problem, by taking their ideas to market, by innovating,” said Dr. Arlen Meyer, executive director of SoPE, and an ear, nose and throat physician at the University of Colorado. “And I believe doctors are already entrepreneurs, already innovators. We’re just trying to instill that mindset.”

Doctors in private practice are business leaders, he said. But doctors who work at hospitals — about 75 percent of the physician workforce — are also innovators.

“We’re telling them they have to innovate in order to survive,” he said.

While SoPE is still new, its organizers have big ideas. Plans for the group include a certification and credentialing process of doctor entrepreneurs at the University of Colorado, traveling to medical conferences around the world, and creating a global network of doctors with ideas to improve access, quality and costs of the health-care industry worldwide.

That’s where Dirk Hobbs, publisher of Medical Voyce, comes in. His magazine, which focuses on doctor issues like reimbursement, compensation and billing, is folding into the SoPE magazine. The first issue will come out Monday, Oct. 1, but will be only available on virtual platforms.

The new publication will feature the best of both magazines, teaching doctors how to take a germ of an idea to a reality in the marketplace. It was time, Hobbs said, to expand what Medical Voyce was about.

“We really couldn’t take it any farther,” he said. “We did good work for the physicians, but I think we’ve discussed compensation, billing and the business side of things. They got it. Now, it’s time to do something else, something more practical.”

Hobbs and Meyer met last October, and Hobbs was intrigued by Meyer’s vision for SoPE. Now that they have a membership base, the two are moving toward creating the magazine.

“I’ve met a lot of doctors, physicians who are on the front lines,” Hobbs said. “And I never met one who didn’t have a great, innovative idea — ideas that are well-thought-out, evidence-based, that they know will work.”

Sometimes the ideas don’t require approval from the Food and Drug Administration, he said, although SoPE will be walking them through the process of gaining that approval.

“But physicians are out there, every day,” he said. “They’re using the equipment, the best practices, the procedures. And sometimes they know if they do this one thing differently, the outcomes are better. Or, if the device had something attached, it’d work better. Getting those ideas out there, that’s what SoPE is about.”

The new magazine will highlight those ideas, ways to get through onerous regulatory process and help doctors network with other physicians to gain the best practices. At first, it will be available to every physician in Colorado, as well as bio-investors.

“We both want — Arlen and I are united on this — to create a biotech innovation hub in Colorado,” Hobbs said. “That’s our goal. But we know everybody can’t move here. So we’re going to make sure we’re adding access to investors, to manufacturers, to intellectual property companies. And you know what they’re going to be thinking; they’re going to be thinking revenue.”

Meyer is handling much of the daily work of SoPE, dealing with the future credentialing program and handling membership from around the globe. Hobbs is working on the magazine and networking angles, he said.

For his part, Meyer believes doctors are anxious for the kind of information provided in the new SoPE magazine.

“In order to survive, we have to adopt an innovative mindset,” he said. “And that’s not just private practice physicians. Hospital-based physicians have to add value to the organization, or they’ll get fired. We’re helping them get there.”