Health care is an industry that is powered by the creativity and innovation of entrepreneurs. From the creation of new vaccines to the production of innovative imaging machines, the medical field advances at a rapid rate, constantly looking to improve patient outcomes and lower costs.
Today, new and exciting entrepreneurship opportunities are opening for family nurse practitioners (FNPs), sparked by the current age of health care reform. As an FNP, you can play an important role in the developments that currently are unfolding in the medical field.
Entrepreneurship and the health of health care
Entrepreneurship is critical for the advancement of the health care field. Without new, innovative ideas, the industry would grow stagnate, missing out on opportunities to improve the efficiency and efficacy of current processes and strategies. A major means by which entrepreneurship accomplishes this objective is by increasing competition in the industry. As individuals and groups work to create new drugs, equipment, treatment methods and other health care products, more options are available to consumer and health care organizations when making purchasing decisions. These choices drive down prices and increase quality, as competing companies fight to make their products desirable in the eyes of consumers.
Within the health care field, the individuals who come up with innovative ideas can be either entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs. An entrepreneur is a person who manages and develops new solutions and ideas, and is in control of the resulting products. An intraprenuer, on the other hand, is a person within an organization who is given the support to develop these new ideas and products as part of their job responsibilities. As an FNP, you may have opportunities to take on either role, depending on where you work and your personal preferences.
While the demand for entrepreneurship resulting from health care reform gives you and other nursing professionals opportunities for growth, the idea of nurses as entrepreneurs is not new. Nurses have been developing innovative health care ideas since Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing in the 19th century, but recent health care reform has once again brought the nursing professional to the forefront of medical innovation.
According to a report published in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, the actions taken in the reform process have supported the position of the nursing entrepreneur and intraprenuer, and made progress in advancing the roles.
A 2010 initiative launched by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended removing barriers that keep nurses from responding effectively to changes in health care. The authors pointed to the growth in nurse-managed health centers led by nurse practitioners. These centers provide cost-effective, high-quality care, while giving nursing professionals a more significant role in the medical process.
The entrepreneurial benefits of health care reform
The widespread health care reform now taking place across the U.S. has been spurred in large part by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was passed into law in 2010. This legislation seeks to extend medical coverage to a greater number of Americans, lowering costs and improving care. Since it was passed, the number of uninsured people living in the U.S. under the age of 65 has decreased to an all-time low of 9.1 percent.
Increased insurance coverage has resulted in larger numbers of people seeking health care. This growth combined with an expanding elderly population and an increase in chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension has resulted in more demand for health care services. Consequently, nurses have additional opportunities to be innovative and otherwise influence the direction of health care. The fact that nurses are playing a more active role in health care is especially important because of the current shortage of physicians that the U.S. is facing. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that demand for doctors will rise by 17 percent between 2013 and 2025, creating a shortage of between 46,000 and 90,000 physicians. As a nurse practitioner, you can expand the scope of your work to fill this void and create opportunities for personal advancement.
While doctors often may be viewed as the leaders of the medical field, nurses are more than equipped to take on an entrepreneurial role in determining the direction of medicine. Nursing professionals have both the training and clinical expertise required to identify the industry’s needs. In fact, nurses often may see problems in their day-to-day work that go unnoticed by other health care professionals. The facts suggest that nurses not only are equipped to pursue entrepreneurial efforts — they are incredibly successful in doing so. Between 93 to 100 percent of patients are completely or very satisfied with the quality of care that is provided by intra/entrepreneurial nurses who work in primary care settings.
The current state of health entrepreneurship
The health care industry is a complex entity that cannot be changed overnight. External pressures that complicate major overhauls include disease burden, population growth, market concentrations, ease of transportation and health delivery methods. However, entrepreneurial nurses already are having an impact on the industry. An example of this effect is the CVS Minute Clinic Model, where patients are able to see a nurse practitioner or physician assistant for minor ailments without an appointment. This successful model — as well as similar retail clinics — has allowed patients to come and go with ease without spending extended amounts of time in a waiting room or seeing a physician. The professional services company Accenture forecasted that the number of these health care retail clinics will surpass 2,800 by 2017.
Another example is Ruth Lubic, a successful nurse entrepreneur who founded the first free-standing birth center in the country in 1975 in New York City. In 2000, she opened the Family Health and Birth Center in Washington, D.C., which provides care to underserved communities, enhancing care for thousands of women over the years.
As a nurse practitioner, now is the time for you to consider whether an entrepreneurial or intraprenuerial role could be a good next step in your health care career. With your specialized education and clinical expertise, you are well-suited to identify solutions for the needs of not only patients but also your fellow health care staff members.
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