10 Ways to Earn Extra Income With Medical Activities

Leigh Page

Disclosures

December 17, 2012

In This Article

Surprising Opportunities With Pharma

6. Work With Pharmaceutical Companies

"The list of part-time jobs for doctors in the pharmaceutical industry is endless," says Dr. McLaughlin, career consultant. "There are so many different aspects of the work. You could speak for them or serve as an advisor. If you don't want to be a speaker, you can write up a report in your home. You could help the company present data to the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration). Or you could make your practice a site that participates in clinical trials."

For many of these functions, he says, you'll need to have good presentation or writing skills. You'll also need to get training on the drug company's product line, FDA-approved product labeling, and other regulatory requirements.

The payment for a half-hour speech can range from $500 to $2500 and the opportunity is available to many physicians. Pfizer, the second-largest drug manufacturer, paid 4500 doctors to work as "thought leaders" in the second half of 2009 alone.[4]

The sector continues to provide rich opportunities for part-time work by physicians, even as consumer groups argue that pharma money is biasing physicians and companies are under pressure reveal who gets paid. The Affordable Care Act will require drug manufacturers to release information on payments to individual physicians.

Dr. McLaughlin does not believe this exposure will harm the reputation of physicians who work for drug manufacturers. "Patients would not be upset about this," he says.

Drug manufacturers seem to be paying doctors somewhat less than they used to. The business intelligence firm Cutting Edge Information reported that pharmaceutical companies paid individual thought leaders $20,000-$100,000 in 2011, a lower amount than in 2008, when yearly rates were as high as $200,000.[5]

Dr. McLaughlin doubts that the payments will shrink any more. "Opportunities to work with pharma won't go away, because this is important work," he says. "Getting the information about a drug out to physician audiences is crucial."

Pros: Drug companies make generous payments to physicians who advise them and give speeches about their products. Physicians have a wide variety of work to choose from.

Cons: Companies are limiting their payments (although these are still significant). They are also releasing the names of the doctors whom they pay, but it is not clear how this would affect the physicians' reputations.

7. Make House Calls

The resurgence of house calls provides a new way to make extra money. A variety of fledgling companies offer part-time employment, reviving a tradition that seemed all but dead in the 1990s.

Today, about 4000 US doctors make house calls, and the number is still growing, according to the American Academy of Home Care Physicians (AAHCP), which represents these doctors. The AAHCP reports that people aged 85 years or older, a key constituency, is one of the fastest-growing population segments.

Chris McAdam, senior vice president for operations at American Physician Housecalls in Dallas, Texas, says that companies such as his are taking over house calls because medical practices aren't providing them. Meanwhile, hospitals and insurers are pushing for more home visits as a way to reduce readmissions. Medicare has improved reimbursements for house calls, and the Affordable Care Act has mandated a large pilot study on them.

Lou Pavelchik, practice manager at MD at Home in Chicago, Illinois, says the company pays physicians $50-$70 per visit, in addition to covering their malpractice insurance and reimbursing them for the driving. He says his part-time physicians are expected to work 1 or 2 days a week. In the home visit, the physician examines the patient, provides some basic care with mobile equipment, and writes up a plan of care.

Pavelchik says this work appeals to 3 kinds of doctors: those just coming out of residency, those frustrated with the red tape of running a practice, and semiretired physicians who are rolling back their practices.

Physicians who do house calls should have strong empathy and have to put up with a fair amount of driving. Often, they travel with a medical assistant. Rather than the black bag of yesteryear, their chief tool is a laptop computer, used to call up the patient's electronic medical record and other information. Chicago-based Mobile Doctors also provides its physicians with equipment for mobile radiography, echocardiography, carotid Doppler imaging, ultrasonography, and phlebotomy.

The companies have varying business models. Some are local physician practices entirely dedicated to house calls, such as Doctors Making Housecalls; others are national companies, such as Inn House Doctor, which operates in 8 major cities, and WhiteGlove House Call Health, with offices in 3 states. Whereas many companies focus on Medicare patients, some are boutique operations that depend on cash payments from traveling business people; others contract with businesses to cover their employees.

Insurers have also gotten into the house call business. United Healthcare has been running ads in many parts of the country, looking for doctors to make house calls.

Pros: You won't have an overhead or insurance paperwork. Some house call companies provide a great deal of technology.

Cons: The pay is low, and a great deal of driving is required.

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