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Physician entrepreneurs do best when paired with non-doctors, Stanford study finds

business-561387_1920-2Doctors planning to lead a biomedical start-up, take heed: You may need to hire some non-MDs.

Stanford's Riitta Katila, PhD, a professor of management science and of engineering, explains in a recent piece by the Graduate School of Business:

Diversity of expertise fuels innovation, and doctors are great at bringing that variety to technology-focused startups... But you also need diversity of expertise in selecting which ideas to implement.

For a study, Katila led a team of researchers who examined the track record of 231 medical device start-ups. They found that firms led by a physician-CEO had a lower rate of innovation, as measured by the number of new medical-device approvals from the Food and Drug Administration and through interviews with people involved with the companies.

That doesn't mean physicians aren't important, Katila said. In fact, they know the most about medical needs and the suitability of existing technology. But they may not be the best at deciding which ideas to pursue, she said, adding:

CEOs in young firms are not supposed fall in love with any one idea... Their job is to consider many points of view in deciding where to commit precious resources. Professional doctors and surgeons aren’t usually as well suited to that.

Companies perform the best when they include a both doctors and non-physicians, the team found. “You need interdisciplinary skills and a diversity of perspectives,” Katila said.

Previously: Why I'm doing an MD/MBA and health++hackathon aimed for affordability, innovation
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