Articles & Experts

How to Create a Medical Empire Part 2

Monday, July 01, 2024

Part 2:
Business Opportunities in Healthcare

by Dr. Shakeel Ahmed

Part 2 of a 6 Part Series

For part 1 of this article please visit 

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” — Henry David Thoreau 

After outlining the fundamental principles necessary for success in business in my initial article, this piece aims to provide an overview of the various healthcare business categories that a novice investor can explore. This summary highlights the different options available, serving as a foundational guide. Subsequent chapters will offer in-depth insights into each category, providing a detailed analysis to help investors make informed decisions about their investments. 

In no specific order of importance or profitability, here are some of the primary business options available to healthcare entrepreneurs: 

1 - Establish Your Own Practice:

Starting your own medical practice is a pivotal step in laying the foundation of your future enterprise. While it follows a traditional path, the potential for growth and innovation within this route is vast. It goes beyond merely managing a practice focused on accounting and medical care; it becomes the cornerstone of your entrepreneurial ambitions. This foundational base is not only where you begin but also a driving force for future expansions into diverse business ventures. 

Consider the example of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who started his career as a surgeon before launching a medical practice that focused on transplant surgeries. This hands-on experience laid the groundwork for his later ventures, leading him to develop and commercialize the revolutionary cancer drug Abraxane, and ultimately founding NantWorks, a multinational conglomerate of healthcare companies. Dr. Soon-Shiong’s journey from practicing surgeon to entrepreneur underscores how starting a medical practice can ignite a broader entrepreneurial journey. 

Another example is Dr. Howard Murad, who established a dermatology practice that eventually led him to create his own skincare line, Murad. Starting with a small practice allowed Dr. Murad to understand the gaps in skincare products available to his patients, inspiring him to develop his own line that addressed these needs directly. His practice acted as a testing ground for his products and a springboard for his brand, now a globally recognized skincare company. 

Establishing a medical practice provides firsthand experience in running a healthcare business, managing finances, leading a team, and understanding patient needs—all invaluable lessons that will support your future endeavors. By mastering this foundational skill set, you will be better equipped to navigate the complexities of various industries, positioning yourself as a versatile leader in the entrepreneurial world. 

A medical practice offers exposure to the full spectrum of business operations, from navigating healthcare regulations and managing billing systems to hiring and overseeing staff. These skills are transferable and invaluable in virtually any business venture. For instance, Dr. Tom Price transitioned from managing his own orthopedic practice into politics, eventually becoming the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. His medical practice experience gave him deep insights into healthcare systems, influencing his policy perspectives. 

By starting your own practice, you not only gain direct clinical experience but also acquire a holistic understanding of healthcare business operations. This experience builds a strong foundation for launching further ventures, whether in related medical fields or entirely new industries. It transforms a traditional path into a springboard for innovative ideas and diverse opportunities, empowering you to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape confidently and successfully.


2 - Launch a Multi-Specialty Group:

Expanding your influence in the medical field often means taking bold steps, such as establishing a multi-specialty group. This ambitious endeavor allows for a dynamic synergy among healthcare professionals from various disciplines, creating a comprehensive healthcare ecosystem. The proverb "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" holds true here, as a partnership of just two specialists can ignite a powerful collaboration that lays the groundwork for a much larger enterprise. 

One notable example is Johns Hopkins Medicine. Founded by John Shaw Billings and William Osler in the late 19th century, the institution began as a teaching hospital with a comprehensive vision for integrating education, research, and patient care. Their collaboration fostered the development of one of the world's leading multi-specialty academic medical centers, which now includes the School of Medicine, multiple hospitals, and numerous outpatient facilities. This multi-specialty approach has enabled Johns Hopkins to provide state-of-the-art care across many specialties, from neurology to oncology, while also advancing medical research and education. 

Another prominent example is Cleveland Clinic, established in 1921 by four physicians: George Crile, Frank Bunts, William Lower, and John Phillips. Initially a small medical practice, the group aimed to combine specialists' expertise into a cohesive team that could offer comprehensive care. This vision allowed Cleveland Clinic to grow into one of the world's largest multi-specialty group practices, known for its innovative patient care and research initiatives. The clinic's continued success illustrates how a strong foundational collaboration can lead to extensive growth and innovation. 

By beginning with a partnership, you set the stage to build a diverse network of expertise that caters to a broader patient base. This early collaboration opens the doors to offer a wider array of medical services, thereby enhancing the value proposition to patients. For example, the Permanente Medical Group, the physician group behind the Kaiser Permanente network, is one of the largest multi-specialty groups in the United States. Its collaborative model integrates primary care with specialty services, allowing it to tap into supplementary revenue streams and diversify its portfolio to include a broad range of specialties. 

The potential for growth is immense. Starting with just a couple of specialists creates opportunities to expand service offerings, attract top-tier talent from various fields, and integrate cutting-edge medical technologies. Over time, the multi-specialty group can evolve into a robust network with significant influence, potentially collaborating with hospitals, research institutions, and other healthcare entities. For instance, Mayo Clinic's partnership with Arizona State University to establish a research-focused medical school reflects this expansive vision, transforming a humble beginning into a thriving, multidimensional healthcare powerhouse driven by collaboration and a shared mission to provide the best possible care. 


3 - Venture into Medical Product Development:

An often-underestimated yet highly lucrative avenue within the healthcare sector is the development and commercialization of medical products. This includes a wide array of innovations ranging from pharmaceuticals to cutting-edge medical devices, all of which are in high demand due to the continuous evolution of healthcare needs and technological advancements. The global market for medical products is immense and offers numerous opportunities for those with the foresight to enter this field. 

Establishing a company dedicated to developing medical products or partnering with an established entity can unlock numerous opportunities. The healthcare industry is continually evolving, with medical knowledge doubling approximately every 73 days, according to recent reports. Staying up-to-date with technological advancements in medical science provides a distinct advantage for medical professionals, offering the potential to identify unmet needs and pioneer innovative solutions. 

A prime example of a successful venture into medical product development is Intuitive Surgical. The company started as a small team of engineers with a vision to transform surgery. They developed the da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic platform that has revolutionized minimally invasive surgery by enhancing precision and control. By addressing the unmet need for more advanced surgical tools, Intuitive Surgical has created a multi-billion-dollar business that continues to innovate and expand. 

Another example is Gilead Sciences, which began as a small biotechnology company focused on developing antiviral drugs. By investing heavily in research and development, Gilead created groundbreaking antiviral medications that have dramatically improved the treatment of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. The company's products have saved countless lives, and its success illustrates the vast potential of investing in innovative pharmaceutical development. 

Launching a startup in medical product development requires a multidisciplinary approach, blending medical expertise with engineering, regulatory knowledge, and business acumen. I must add, such a venture necessitates rigorous research and development, meticulous adherence to regulatory standards, and a keen understanding of market demands. Having said that, for those with the right expertise and vision, there is immense potential to create products that revolutionize patient care and generate substantial financial returns. 

For instance, Edwards Lifesciences, a leading innovator in heart valve technology, developed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). This less invasive procedure has transformed the treatment of heart valve disease, making it accessible to patients who are not candidates for open-heart surgery. Edwards Lifesciences' success demonstrates how identifying unmet needs and investing in research can lead to transformative medical products. 

To truly capitalize on this opportunity, it's vital to keep a finger on the pulse of emerging trends, regulatory changes, and technological breakthroughs. This vigilance, combined with a deep understanding of medical needs and an entrepreneurial spirit, will position you uniquely to develop and launch products that will meet the needs of healthcare providers and patients alike, ensuring a substantial return on investment. 


4 - Invest in Healthcare Enterprises:

Investing in healthcare enterprises offers a dynamic and lucrative pathway for diversifying and growing your portfolio. With the healthcare sector projected to expand continuously, driven by an aging population and rapid medical advancements, there is immense potential for substantial returns. The landscape is brimming with opportunities, ranging from direct investments in healthcare companies to indirect investments through healthcare-focused mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). 

Direct investment in healthcare companies involves allocating capital to companies at the forefront of medical innovation and healthcare delivery. These could include biotechnology firms developing revolutionary gene therapies, medical device companies pioneering advanced diagnostic tools, or pharmaceutical companies researching new treatments. By carefully analyzing the market and selecting companies with a strong pipeline and innovative potential, investors can benefit from both short-term gains and long-term growth. 

An example of this strategy is investing in a biotech startup focused on developing CAR-T therapy, a cutting-edge cancer treatment that modifies a patient's own cells to target and destroy cancer cells. With the increasing success rates and potential of this technology, investing early in such startups has the potential to yield significant returns if they achieve regulatory approval and commercial success. 

For those seeking broader exposure, indirect investment through healthcare-focused mutual funds or ETFs is an attractive option. These investment vehicles pool resources to invest in a diversified portfolio of healthcare companies, thereby spreading risk while capturing sector-wide growth. They offer an accessible route to tap into the robust healthcare market, covering everything from hospital operators to medical technology companies and pharmaceutical giants. 

Consider the iShares U.S. Healthcare ETF (IYH) as an example. This ETF provides exposure to large and mid-sized U.S. healthcare companies, including industry leaders in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and health insurance. The diversified nature of the ETF allows investors to benefit from the collective growth of the healthcare sector while mitigating risks associated with investing in individual companies. 

The potential of investing in healthcare is underscored by the sector's resilience and ability to thrive even in uncertain economic times. Healthcare is an essential service, and its growth is fueled by demographic shifts and advancements in medical technology. This creates a steady demand for healthcare products and services, making the sector a relatively stable investment. 

To maximize returns, investors should closely follow healthcare trends, regulatory changes, and advancements in medical research. By identifying emerging opportunities and aligning investments with future industry developments, investors can position themselves to benefit from the sector's growth while contributing to improved healthcare outcomes. 


5 - Offer Administrative and Consultative Services:

Leveraging your extensive medical knowledge to provide administrative and consultative services can be a highly lucrative way to capitalize on your expertise within healthcare. Healthcare facilities are increasingly complex, and their successful operation requires a deep understanding of not only clinical matters but also financial management, policy development, and staff oversight. Professionals who can navigate these complexities effectively have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the success of these facilities while enjoying financial rewards. 

For example, you could step into a role such as Chief Medical Officer (CMO), where you would guide the clinical operations of a healthcare facility. In this role, you would be responsible for setting and enforcing clinical standards, managing medical staff, and ensuring that patient care aligns with regulatory guidelines. By bringing both your medical and managerial insights to the table, you can streamline operations and help healthcare organizations deliver better patient outcomes efficiently. This role directly influences the quality of care patients receive, which can be both professionally rewarding and financially advantageous. 

Another opportunity lies in consulting services. Healthcare organizations often seek expert guidance to help them navigate challenges such as reducing operational costs, improving patient care, and enhancing revenue streams. As a consultant, you could offer strategic advice based on industry best practices, enabling healthcare providers to optimize their operations. For instance, you might assist a hospital in implementing a new electronic health record system, helping streamline patient data management while ensuring compliance with healthcare regulations. 

Consulting services can also encompass medicolegal expertise. Providing testimony as a medical expert in malpractice cases is another way to use your medical knowledge to provide a valuable service. By offering impartial and truthful expert testimony, you can play a crucial role in ensuring justice in these complex cases. For example, you might be called to testify about whether a particular treatment met the standard of care in a specific situation. This niche field requires both detailed knowledge and the ability to communicate complex medical information clearly, making it a highly respected and rewarding path. 

Furthermore, many professionals provide administrative and consultative services through private practices or firms, allowing them to work with multiple clients and organizations. This setup can provide flexibility, exposure to diverse challenges, and the chance to have a broader impact on the industry. Whether it's offering guidance on improving operational efficiency or navigating regulatory changes, these roles offer a platform for experienced healthcare professionals to contribute their expertise meaningfully while enjoying significant financial rewards. 

In sum, leveraging your medical expertise for administrative and consultative purposes allows you to play a pivotal role in improving healthcare systems. By helping organizations navigate operational complexities, optimizing costs, and ensuring high standards of patient care, you can achieve professional fulfillment while also reaping financial benefits. 


6 - Capitalize on Ambulatory Surgery Centers:

Investing in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) is a golden opportunity for those looking to capitalize on the healthcare sector. ASCs, which specialize in providing same-day surgical care, are increasingly sought after due to their cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and focus on patient convenience. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the value of ASCs, as more patients sought care in private settings outside traditional hospital environments, thus accelerating the demand for these facilities. 

The intricacies involved in conceptualizing, establishing, credentialing, and managing an ASC can be challenging, but they also offer substantial returns for those willing to navigate them. ASCs require compliance with stringent regulatory standards, particularly regarding surgical safety and quality care. For example, obtaining accreditation from organizations like the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) or The Joint Commission can lend credibility and ensure compliance with the highest standards. 

Physicians can consider a range of investment models for ASCs. One approach, and this is how I established my brand in the Midwest,  is to create a physician-owned ASC, where a group of surgeons pools resources to build and manage the center. This model allows physicians to retain full control over the facility's operations and strategic direction, thus aligning clinical goals with business objectives. For instance, a group of orthopedic surgeons might open an ASC specializing in joint replacements and sports medicine procedures, tailoring services to their expertise and local demand. 

Another example is investing in joint ventures with hospitals or healthcare systems. I am not a big proponent of this option because it inevitably leads to a loss of autonomy, but it is worth mentioning. These partnerships blend the clinical expertise of physicians with the operational infrastructure of hospitals, creating synergies that enhance the efficiency and reach of the ASC. In this model, physicians benefit from the hospital's broader referral network and administrative support, while the hospital gains a valuable outpatient service that complements its broader care network. 

ASCs also present investment opportunities for non-clinicians through private equity or venture capital. These investors often seek ASCs due to their potential for high returns and scalability. For instance, a private equity firm might invest in a network of ASCs, implementing standardized practices across facilities to improve efficiency and profitability. Such investments also drive consolidation in the sector, as investors seek to build portfolios of high-performing centers. 

In addition to economic benefits, ASCs offer the satisfaction of improving patient care. They provide a more personalized and efficient experience compared to hospitals, often leading to higher patient satisfaction. ASCs specialize in specific procedures, resulting in streamlined workflows that minimize wait times and enhance quality. This model also reduces the risk of hospital-acquired infections, further improving patient outcomes. 

Ultimately, investing in ASCs requires a thorough understanding of regulatory requirements, market demand, and clinical workflows. However, for those who can navigate these challenges, the rewards are significant. ASCs represent a rapidly growing segment of the healthcare sector, offering substantial opportunities for financial growth while contributing to the evolution of patient-centered care. 


7 - Launch a Pharmacy:

Entering the pharmacy business presents a compelling opportunity due to the persistent and inevitable need for healthcare interventions. By establishing a pharmacy, you are entering an industry where demand remains consistent, irrespective of economic fluctuations. This reliability is anchored in the fundamental role pharmacies play in dispensing essential medications and medical supplies that support patient recovery and treatment. 

Launching a pharmacy requires meticulous planning and investment in the necessary infrastructure. This includes securing a location with adequate space, obtaining required licenses, and establishing reliable supply chains for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Furthermore, the business must comply with regulations regarding prescription drugs, including controlled substances, to maintain legal and ethical standards. 

A notable example of a successful pharmacy venture is the establishment of specialized pharmacies that cater to specific medical needs, such as compounding pharmacies. These businesses customize medications to meet unique patient requirements, which is not possible with mass-produced pharmaceuticals. For instance, a compounding pharmacy might formulate medications for patients with allergies to certain ingredients in standard medications, or for pediatric patients who require precise dosages. 

Another lucrative area is mail-order or online pharmacies. The convenience and efficiency of home delivery have led to a surge in demand for these services, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, can receive regular shipments of their medications, reducing the need for frequent trips to a physical pharmacy. Establishing a reliable online pharmacy requires a robust logistics network and a user-friendly digital platform, but the potential for growth is substantial. 

In addition to traditional dispensing services, pharmacies can diversify revenue streams by offering value-added services like vaccination clinics, health screenings, and medication therapy management. For instance, a pharmacy might establish a vaccination program that not only dispenses flu shots but also offers COVID-19 and other routine vaccinations, increasing its appeal as a convenient, one-stop health destination. 

Pharmacies that align closely with healthcare providers can also create symbiotic relationships. For example, a pharmacy located within or near a medical clinic benefits from a steady stream of patients and can provide specialized services tailored to the clinic's patient population. By collaborating with physicians to ensure patients receive comprehensive care, pharmacies can enhance medication adherence and patient outcomes. 

Launching a pharmacy business is not without challenges. It requires a solid understanding of pharmaceutical regulations, supply chain management, and customer service. However, with the right planning and execution, it offers a stable and potentially lucrative opportunity. The global pharmaceuticals market is projected to continue growing, driven by aging populations and increased access to healthcare, positioning pharmacies at the heart of this growth trajectory. 

By establishing a pharmacy, you not only contribute to the vital task of providing essential healthcare services but also align yourself with a business that is intrinsically linked to the ongoing need for medical care. 


8 - Establish Your Own Laboratory:

The landscape of laboratory services has evolved significantly, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Laboratories became pivotal in mass testing efforts, with demand skyrocketing for diagnostic services. Those strategically positioned during this period saw significant financial gains, underscoring the potential profitability of owning a laboratory business. 

Establishing a laboratory requires significant planning, investment, and regulatory compliance. Start by identifying the type of laboratory you wish to establish. It could specialize in clinical diagnostics, research, toxicology, or pathology, depending on your target market and expertise. For example, a clinical diagnostics laboratory focused on infectious diseases could have a substantial impact, given the current focus on public health and preventive care. 

Securing appropriate licensing and accreditation is paramount. Laboratories must adhere to rigorous standards set by regulatory bodies such as the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) in the United States. Accreditation from organizations like the College of American Pathologists (CAP) can also enhance credibility, signaling adherence to high-quality standards. 

One notable example is the rise of high-throughput testing facilities during the pandemic. Laboratories like Quest Diagnostics expanded rapidly to accommodate the surge in demand for COVID-19 testing, offering molecular, antigen, and antibody tests. This expansion highlighted the importance of scalability in laboratory operations, demonstrating how swift adaptation to changing healthcare needs can result in substantial growth. 

Another lucrative area is specialized testing services. Genetic testing labs, for example, have seen increasing demand as personalized medicine gains traction. Establishing a genetics lab requires investment in sophisticated equipment and expertise in genetic analysis, but the potential to provide critical insights into hereditary diseases and personalized treatment plans is immense. 

In addition to standard diagnostic services, laboratories can diversify revenue streams through research partnerships. Collaborating with pharmaceutical companies or academic institutions on clinical trials or experimental research can provide stable income and foster innovation. A laboratory could partner with a biotech firm to analyze samples from patients in a clinical trial, providing crucial data that supports drug development. 

The post-COVID-19 world emphasizes the importance of robust diagnostic services, and the laboratory industry is poised for continued expansion. Increased awareness of public health and preventive care will likely maintain the high demand for laboratory testing. Beyond infectious diseases, chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases also require regular monitoring, further boosting the need for diagnostic services. 

Entering the laboratory business involves high upfront costs and complex regulatory compliance, but the potential rewards are significant. By identifying a niche market and investing in high-quality services, you can position your laboratory to benefit from the continued growth in diagnostic services. Whether focusing on clinical diagnostics, specialized testing, or research, a well-established laboratory can be an integral part of the healthcare system and a profitable venture in its own right. 


9 - Open Your Own Imaging Center:

Opening an imaging center is a significant venture that requires careful planning, significant investment, and a commitment to providing high-quality diagnostic services. The increasing importance of imaging in medical diagnostics offers a substantial opportunity for those willing to navigate the complexities of this business. 

Begin by conducting a comprehensive market analysis to understand the demand for imaging services in your target area. This analysis should identify the types of imaging most needed, assess the competitive landscape, and pinpoint gaps in existing services. For example, if your target area has a high prevalence of orthopedic cases, focusing on modalities like MRI and CT scans could cater to a significant portion of the patient population. 

Securing a suitable location is crucial to the center's success. It should be accessible to patients and referring physicians, have ample parking, and comply with zoning regulations for healthcare facilities. For instance, locating the center near a medical campus or hospital can increase patient referrals and enhance collaboration with other healthcare providers. 

The equipment is another critical aspect. Acquiring state-of-the-art imaging devices involves substantial costs, but it's necessary to provide high-quality services. Consider leasing equipment or purchasing certified pre-owned machines to reduce initial costs without compromising quality. For example, a refurbished MRI machine could offer similar functionality to new models at a fraction of the price. 

Obtaining the necessary licenses and accreditations is next. Compliance with state healthcare regulations is essential, and obtaining accreditation from recognized bodies like the American College of Radiology (ACR) can enhance your center's credibility and patient trust. Accreditation demonstrates a commitment to quality and safety, often influencing patients' and physicians' choices in healthcare providers. 

Recruiting a skilled team is vital for the imaging center's operational efficiency and patient care. Hiring experienced radiologists, technicians, and support staff ensures accurate diagnostics and smooth operations. Implementing a robust billing system is also crucial, as is establishing relationships with insurance providers to streamline payment processes and ensure timely reimbursement. 

Finally, developing a comprehensive marketing strategy is essential for promoting your services to the local community and healthcare providers. Attending medical conferences, joining professional networks, and using digital marketing strategies can increase the center's visibility. Building partnerships with local physicians is also crucial, as they often guide patients toward specific imaging centers based on service quality and reliability. 

Consider how RadNet, one of the largest outpatient imaging networks in the United States, expanded through strategic acquisitions and partnerships. By aligning with local physicians and offering a broad range of imaging services, RadNet established a network that ensures both patient convenience and high-quality diagnostics. 

Opening an imaging center is a demanding endeavor, but it offers substantial rewards for those who execute it successfully. By focusing on market needs, investing in the right equipment and personnel, and building strong professional relationships, you can establish a thriving imaging center that contributes meaningfully to patient care while also being a profitable venture. 



This brief overview highlights the variety of healthcare investment opportunities available to new investors. Each option could be detailed in an entire book, but that's beyond the scope of this series of articles. Therefore, I will provide a concise description of each option. In the upcoming articles, I'll delve deeper into each of these business opportunities to provide more detailed insights.


As Nelson Mandela wisely noted, "It always seems impossible until it's done." Starting a new business can feel like a formidable challenge, but taking that initial step often reveals that the journey is more manageable than anticipated.