Making Medical Practice Profitable

Colin T. Son


March 03, 2009

Healthcare is a business -- a fact not hammered home in medical or nursing school. Maybe that's why healthcare consultants exist. David Williams is one such consultant, and the company he cofounded, MedPharma Partners, focuses on healthcare technology and pharmaceuticals. He also happens to write about the business side of healthcare, with a focus on healthcare technology, at the aptly named Health Business Blog.

Recently, David sat down to talk about what healthcare consulting entails and its future as the American healthcare system changes.

Colin Son: Describe what it's like to be a healthcare consultant.

David Williams: I've been interested in healthcare business and policy for a long time. When I was in high school, I developed a computerized clinical decision-support tool for a VA hospital, and in college I had a summer job at the Urban Institute studying malpractice insurance reform. I then worked for McKinsey during another summer and ended up as a consultant at L.E.K. after graduation, where I worked on lingerie manufacturing in Hong Kong and China, among other nonhealthcare assignments.

When I graduated from business school, I started putting healthcare and consulting together at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). It was during Clinton's first term, and the failed healthcare reform efforts touched off a lot of activity in the private sector, which we consulted on. I worked on nonhealthcare projects at BCG, too, but found healthcare to be the most meaningful and satisfying.

In 2001, I decided to leave BCG to consult for smaller, more entrepreneurial companies. An early client was RelayHealth (then called Healinx), where we helped develop a successful business model that enabled the company to prosper and eventually be acquired by McKesson. In 2003, I teamed up with former colleagues to found MedPharma Partners, a boutique firm that provides healthcare strategy consulting to large and small organizations within technology-enabled healthcare services, pharma, and biotech. Some of the most satisfying work has been with not-for-profit organizations such as the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research and the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, where we've helped develop and implement sustainable business models.

Of course, the Health Business Blog also has been a passion, for the past 4 years.

The Health Care Blog hosts Grand Rounds
March 3, 2009

Colin Son: I'm sure it gives you a unique perspective on the current US healthcare system. How do you think we should be framing the debate on healthcare reform?

David Williams: One theme that's underemphasized is the role of entrepreneurs in shaping healthcare reform. As I've written, we don't have to wait for top-down efforts to see improvements in cost, quality, patient safety, access, and customer service (aka "patient experience"). Many entrepreneurial companies and not-for-profits are working on these issues today. I'm proud to say that quite a few of them are our clients.

Colin Son: What do you think is the future of healthcare consulting?

David Williams: We're going to have an extended period of tumult in healthcare, which will mean a steady or increasing need for people who understand the business of healthcare and can advise others. Big pharma, which has been a major user of consulting, will continue to decline. But healthcare services have a bright future.

Colin Son: On March 3, 2009, the Health Business Blog will host Grand Rounds, which features the best healthcare writing from around the Internet. Hosted by a different blogger each week, it highlights favorite posts from physicians, nurses, students, patients and others interested in healthcare.


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