Arlen Meyers: Transforming Healthcare by Entrepreneurship

Arlen Meyers | Business Magazine
Arlen Meyers | Business Magazine

Those who lead health service organizations need to evolve from technicians to managers to leaders to entrepreneurs to leaderpreneurs in order to thrive. Some call it practicing at the top of one’s license. In addition, filling the C-suite with more physician managers just makes it harder to innovate and adds further clutter to the organization. Leaderpreneurs lead innovators; they don’t just manage innovation systems. After 40 years as a professor of otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat surgery) at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Dr. Arlen Meyers, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, transitioned from teaching, practicing and researching the art of medicine to teaching, practicing and researching the business of medicine, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Arlen teaches innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz medical campus and the business school at the downtown campus. Also, he is a physician in residence at the Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship. In addition, he also consults to several healthcare companies which are creating drugs, devices, diagnostics, digital health products, care delivery models and medical education platforms. The mission of Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE) a non-profit, global open biomedical and clinical innovation and entrepreneurship network is helping members get their ideas to patients.

Arlen does not believe sick care, i.e. a system that predominantly takes care of sick patients instead of keeping them healthy, can be fixed from inside. That is the reason his non-profit, the SoPE (Society of Physician Entrepreneurs) is a global open innovation network that includes many different stakeholders, not just doctors, but also other health professionals such as investors, service providers, technologists, patients, academics and many more. Each member segment wants SoPE to do a different job for them and, therefore, the company emphasizes different value propositions to each segment. The overall mission, however, remains the same; helping members get their ideas to patients or help someone who is.

According to Arlen, physician entrepreneurs and leaderpreneurs need education, resources, networks, mentors, experience, peer to peer support and career and professional development training. The most important trait, however, is an entrepreneurial and growth mindset. Innovation starts with mindset. Nowadays, leaders are charged with winning the 4th industrial revolution that is powered by cyber intelligence. That involves creating, scaling and sustaining a culture of innovation and leading an ambidextrous resilient organization with a workforce that has an entrepreneurial mindset. Overcoming those barriers require an innovative structure, process and culture that is supportive and determines the success by measuring the results of outcomes, not process or engagement. In addition, Arlen said “Be sure you clearly define entrepreneurship, innovation and value and paint a picture of success so followers know the goal.”

To get updated with technological trends, and to boost personal and company’s growth, Arlen practices entrepreneurial habits and has created an encore career portfolio. He reads articles and books outside of sick care, writes almost every day, and accepts assignments where he has limited experience. He believes that he is learning from failure to fill his blind spots. He actively mentors, consults and advises start-ups developing new technologies. Teaching, speaking, connecting people and building robust internal and external networks, consulting with mentors and a personal advisory board and attending non-sick care technology events and conferences all are helping him to achieve consistency and growth.

Midway in Arlen’s academic career, with his colleagues, he invented a device to optically detect oral cancer. The team attempted to transfer the technology to commercial markets but never made it over the finish line. It was the first of many of his entrepreneurial failures. The experience taught him three important lessons including; 1) everyone thinks they have a good idea 2) they don’t know what to do with their ideas, and 3) they won’t be taught what to do with their ideas in formal training.

Arlen thinks it is cruel and unusual punishment to expect people to innovate and create value and pay them for value without giving them the education, training and resources to do it, so he decided to do something to change that.

Arlen is attempting, with the help of others, to lead change with the goals of transforming sick care to health care, reforming medical education and training, restoring the joy of medicine, and improving the disparity in global health outcomes through the deployment of innovation. He is building an international innovation and entrepreneurship network and helping, educating students to win the 4th industrial revolution. He is aiming to reduce sick care quality cost, access and experience inequities, and reconcile the conflicts between the ethics of business with the ethics of medicine with these he is changing the rules for the common good and creating sustainability.

Arlen is scaling the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs around the world in an effort to close global health outcome disparities through the deployment of biomedical and clinical in novation and entrepreneurship.