Leaving Consulting for the Healthcare Industry (Honey, I’m back!) 

 

Francesco  is a former pediatric neurosurgeon who left his clinical post in London in 2010 to join McKinsey as a consultant. In his nearly four years at McKinsey he consulted for pharmaceutical and medical devices companies, health organizations, authorities and several hospitals across Europe, the US and Middle East.

Since leaving McKinsey in 2014 Francesco has moved to Dubai, founded a healthcare consulting company, taken a director role for a large hospital group and created GulfSpecialists.com, a marketplace platform helping doctors and other international healthcare professionals find the right work opportunities in the Gulf countries.


 

In the previous blog post of this two-part series, Leaving Medicine for Consulting (I don’t love you anymore), we explored several reasons why a doctor might want to leave clinical medicine, and become a management consultant. As mentioned in the article, this is most often a way to buy time towards a new definitive career, and acquire new skills in the meanwhile. Now we will analyse potential reasons why a doctor would want  to leave consulting after a while, and what end up being the most frequent landing spots.

So why did you leave consulting?

To do something concrete. Doctors are generally accustomed to a very practical and hands-on approach, and the sequence between the action they perform and obtaining a visible impact is usually very short. Consulting isn’t so. First of all, you aren’t actually performing the action, but rather advising it, or producing documents explaining to people (the client) how to perform the action you suggested. Secondly, your advice and the impact are decoupled. As a consultant, you have most often left the client by the time you should be seeing the results of your advice, and most often end up not knowing if the desired  impact was achieved. This lack of a tangible “action and effect sequence” was a major source of dissatisfaction for me and other doctors I met in consulting, and ended up being one of the main reasons I left.

Other reasons to leave consulting are shared among people of all backgrounds, not just doctors: the unfavourable work-life balance, the excessive travel, the stress and uncertainty of what your next project will be, or of your promotion in the season of performance reviews. Those are the usual things most consultants will complain about, and rightly so.

So now what?

Let me say upfront that the possibilities are quite vast. Healthcare is an always-growing sector, driven by technological innovation, longer life expectancy, and increased demand for healthcare services just to name a few. Another element is that healthcare does not resent economic downturns as much as other sectors, due to people (or governments) usually not compromising on the level of service purchased even during tough financial circumstances. As a doctor with business consulting experience, you occupy a very narrow “sweet spot” in a high-demand sector. But what are the most typical career options for former clinicians aspiring to become former consultants?

  • Hospital management. This is the most obvious outcome. If you started your career in a hospital, then went into management consulting, it makes great sense to apply those management principles in the domain you know best. Contrary to common belief, a good doctor with just clinical experience does not by default make a good manager, and hospitals are always struggling to find people who are both capable and experienced managers and at the same time have a thorough understanding of the hospital business. Most of my former medical colleagues who went through consulting now have director or executive positions in hospitals or hospital groups.
  • Corporate pharma and medical devices sector. Doctors in consulting are mostly deployed in the pharmaceutical and medical devices sector. That’s because this space is usually dominated by large corporations which have more ease than hospitals in paying big consulting fees. As a result of this, consultant-doctors will spend lots of time consulting in these industries, and can gain a very deep knowledge of them. The transition I have seen most frequently in this case is the consultant being hired directly by the corporate client at the end of (or during even) the consulting project. The areas in which they get hired can be various: strategy, R&D, medical liaison, and even sales.
  • Startup/Entrepreneurship. Every doctor has at some point had a “breakthrough idea” in medical products or services that he/she wanted to push to the market. Often this doesn’t materialise while the doctor is caught up in clinical medicine, as a result of lack of time or business knowledge. But things can change after consulting. The additional skills, and sometimes the network obtained in the years in consulting provide the necessary boost to take the leap towards entrepreneurship. This isn’t for everyone, though, as it depends heavily on the level of risk-inclination one has. Once again, the actual nature of the startup will vary widely: I’ve seen former colleagues go into internet services, biotech startups, devices startups, and in some cases starting their own healthcare consultancies.
  • Healthcare Private Equity. Private equity is one of the most in-demand sectors for life-after-consulting. Doctors are no exception and also seek such positions. The medical/healthcare sector is extremely dynamic, and there is a huge amount of buying, selling and merging in small and large companies in healthcare. This is true for small biotech startups, large medical devices companies, hospitals and hospital groups, even medical insurance companies! The valuation  of a healthcare company, though, can be tricky. Technological breakthroughs, trends in treatments, the clinical effectiveness of a product, or operational effectiveness of a hospital can mean a world of difference for a company, and mark the line between a failing and a thriving asset. Doctors usually have a better grasp of most of these elements, more than people with a business background, so they are sought-after to join PE teams either in operational improvement roles, or in the financial transaction roles. I myself have been called upon to provide my perspective on which assets to buy from a fund, and have a considered for a role in PE Firm. This is not for everyone, though. Only medical doctors with a solid consulting experience in financial services or M&A finally get the PE jobs.

 

– by Francesco

 

You might also like the stories of our other movemeon members:

1.  WTF Are Unicorns? A Move From Consulting to Tech Startup

2. Moving in-house and the perks of life outside consultancy 

 


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