'I've Had It With Medicine!' 16 Options for Second Careers

Leigh Page


July 10, 2014

In This Article

5. Work With Computer Technology

If you have expertise in computer technology, you'll have a variety of careers to choose from, including advising an electronic medical record (EMR) company, working for a hospital, creating software applications, and perhaps even launching a technology start-up company.

In the flawed launches of EMRs and other systems in hospitals, physicians have blamed non-MD chief information officers (CIOs) for not understanding their needs. As a result, hospitals have started hiring physicians as chief medical information officers (CMIOs). These doctors serve as a liaison to the medical staff and apply a clinician's insights into developing computer technology.

The Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) recently stated[8] that the number of physicians who reported working with a CMIO has almost doubled, from 22% in 2012 to 40% in 2013. "When you think about the physicians and CMIOs coming on, they bring in this culture [of] connectivity and analytics," Lorren Petit, Vice President of Market Research for HIMSS, told EHR Intelligence magazine.[9]

A model for this approach is John D. Halamka, MD, who has been CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston for many years. He also writes the Geek Doctor blog and puts in time practicing emergency medicine.

Similarly, physicians can offer useful input into improving EMR design. A company called Modernizing Medicine, based in Boca Raton, Florida, seeks to bridge the gap between doctors and software engineers by teaching physicians computer coding and having them design specialty-specific EMRs. The physicians even go on the road to market their product, even as they continue to practice medicine.

Beyond EMRs, physicians can play a role in developing a variety of new software applications, ranging from at-home patient monitoring to providing doctors with quick access to best practices. For example, Thomas Osborne, MD, a radiologist in Vista, California, has been reading scans for vRad, a large telemedicine company. Recently, he was named the company's medical director of informatics. To demonstrate his abilities and get the job, he did IT work and volunteered for a company project. "My successful involvement has in turn put me in a position to be involved in other areas of the rapidly expanding business," he said. 

Some physicians dropped out of medicine to work on software even before they completed their residency. Scott Zimmerman, MD, CEO of Xola.com, a travel Website based in San Francisco, said he became interested in software coding while in medical school and left a neurology residency program at Stanford to devote himself full-time to the company.

"People told me I was crazy," he said. "I only had $10,000 in the bank and nearly $200,000 in student loans, with a six-figure salary just in reach." But the new company raised $2 million from several investors.

Pluses: A variety of career paths are available to those who are computer-savvy.

Minuses: Most physicians don't have a strong enough background for these jobs, and additional learning and experience would be required.


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