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Dear health-tech start-up founders, angel investors, and venture capitalists...

By Dr. Colin Coulthard |

This is an open letter to ask you to consider recruiting GPs. I know it seems prestigious to have a “specialist” working for you, but there are some really good reasons why a start-up could be better off recruiting a generalist...

Before I go any further, I should declare an interest here. I am a GP and I am a founder of a startup. So I am biased. Having said that, having been involved in the health tech start-up scene for a while, I  often find myself thinking that many health tech ideas would benefit from being run past an experienced GP.  Many people could save themselves a lot of time, effort and money.

So here goes. Three great reasons that you should consider employing experienced GPs in your health-tech venture...

Firstly is that by our very nature, GPs tend to be entrepreneurial. Most GP surgeries are independent SMEs, owned and run by the partners. This means that many GPs already have management experience of what it takes to run a small business. They know how to make a profit and grow. We will have faced most of the problems that a small business can face. We know about staffing, teamwork, leadership, accounts and the like. We’re also really good at finding cost-effective solutions to difficult problems. Generally, it costs GPs half as much as it costs hospitals to achieve similar outcomes.  Although we are expensive (c£100k p.a) we are worth it. Not only are you getting the benefit of our medical experience, you’re also getting our business accumen.

Second is that we have a broad base of knowledge of patients, medicine, social care and medical systems. Not only do we have mandatory experience of working within hospitals (at least 3 years, but often more), we also have huge experience of working in the community. As most of the business of health is conducted or is moving into the community, having someone on board who knows the sector is priceless. Similarly, if you face having to pivot at some point, it’s highly likely that your GP colleague will be as knowledgeable about the area that you intend to move into.

Finally, as a start-up, you need to be speaking to your customers. At itamus, we feel that customer development is vital for the success of any project. As GPs, our speciality is talking to patients. We see more patients per day and a greater proportion of our time is spent talking to them than just about anyone else. Getting to know our patients well in a timely fashion is what we do as GPs.

So if you’re looking for an entrepreneurial collaborator who has a broad base of business experience, knows quite a lot about large proportions of the health and social care sector, is used to designing and implementing cost-effective solutions to problems, and has more experience of talking to patients and understanding their problems than just about anyone else, then look to recruit an experienced GP. It'll be the best hire you ever made.

You're welcome,

Colin and Richard

PS. As an added bonus, the current poor working conditions in General Practice mean that if you make a competitive offer, you’ll get your hand bitten off.