The Australasian College of Physician Executives (ACPE) will provide a much-needed boost to healthcare innovation both in Australia, and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

According to Dr Deon Gouws, founder and managing director, physician executives have much to offer in terms of navigating the cross-over between medicine and business to help solve important healthcare challenges.

“We need more medically trained entrepreneurs and business people to apply their minds to the challenges of an ageing population; the increasing cost of healthcare; greater supply-demand disparities and new models of care. New paradigms must be found, and in my view, the medical community has an important role to play. We cannot afford the luxury of being spectators to these challenges. Physician executives – entrepreneurs skilled in both healthcare and commerce – should be at the forefront of this endeavour.”

“We know that most governments have legal, moral and/or ethical obligations to provide healthcare services to its citizens, but the reality is that many health systems are struggling to cope. Governments are caught between the expectations of their people, and the constraints of its resources.” Dr Gouws continued. This has become one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Medical entrepreneurialism essential

“Whilst public health services are probably in most urgent need of innovation, we recognise that most significant innovations have stemmed from hardcore private sector entrepreneurialism,” he said.

“Major innovation requires a novel idea, a supportive environment and the skills to develop that concept into a tangible solution.  Entrepreneurs combine these attributes with a fierce determination to be successful. So if you consider the more likely source of the next big thing in healthcare – my money is on the private sector.”

“Unfortunately, it is also true that many innovative ideas fail to deliver the expected outcome. Knowing this, it would be short-sighted to have all our efforts in one basket, so to speak. We have to fill the innovation pipeline with many entrepreneurs working on many different ideas. As a society, we need to invest in the development of healthcare innovation hubs – where (public) healthcare challenges are viewed through the lens of commercial opportunity. Where those in private enterprise are incentivised to take the risk of developing truly innovative solutions, which can then be shared through public-private-partnerships. Medical innovation cannot dwell in isolation from business, or it will not succeed,” he said.

The rise of physician executives

The business of healthcare has become both complex and demanding. Consequently, the establishment of a professional body for physician executives, to coach and mentor the next generation of medical entrepreneurs and business people, is a very important step toward better healthcare models.

“Physician executives have a unique role to play in the debate about how health care models should evolve.” Dr Gouws said, “They will play a big role in shaping the future of healthcare; how it will be funded; how it will be sustained; who and how enterprise will profit from it. They work at balancing the intrinsic friction between providing healthcare and being profitable and sustainable.”

“Clinicians working at individual patient level simply do not have the time or resources to get involved in macro-decisions regarding resource allocation, models of care, outcomes, funding allocations and the like. These decisions are made well upstream from the physician in the consulting room, who simply does not have the bandwidth due to the demands of their everyday role.”

“From my point of view, we need more physician executives at that critical junction of medicine and commerce, where strategy and policy decisions ultimately shape how physicians practice medicine at the bedside. As a result, one of the first objectives of the College is to present our case why it’s necessary for the medical fraternity to develop another stream of specialism down this path,” he said.

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