Financially, 2020 has been a rough ride for us all—physicians included.
Doctors employed by large healthcare institutions and those in private practice have felt the financial sting of canceled procedures, postponed visits, and even layoffs and furloughs. As a result, some physicians have gotten creative to bring in some extra money.
A recent MDLinx survey queried our physician readership segment about how the pandemic has affected them personally and professionally. More than 1,200 doctors responded, and 300 said they’d taken on a side hustle to help generate some extra money. We followed up with these doctors to ask more about what they’re doing in hopes of giving you some more earning options if you find yourself struggling.
Four doctors sent us some details. One asked for money to exchange information on what they’re doing, which we suppose could be a side-side hustle (we declined). Definitely entrepreneurial; we’ll give them that. Here’s what we learned from the readers who responded.
Medical Chart Review
One physician told us that she reviews medical records for a finance company that invests in life insurance policies. She uses her medical training to estimate life expectancy for applicants. Typically, estimates take 3-4 hours weekly, she said and can bring in anywhere from $1,000-$3,000 monthly. There were no startup costs associated with this work; she tells us.
“I enjoy this because it allows me to expand my medical experience and learn about how patients are being treated and faring around the country, but sometimes the record reviews can be tedious,” she said.
She told us that flexibility makes this side hustle a good option for doctors. You can do the work whenever you have the time.
Chart review isn’t exclusive to insurance underwriting. Some healthcare organizations employ physicians to review charts, and some insurance companies do, too. If you want to get involved, check out the National Association of Independent Review Organizations. The member's page lists about 30 organizations that employ physicians to perform independent peer reviews. The enterprising among you could begin by investigating some of these companies to see if they’re hiring doctors.
Working with Pharma
One physician told us that she’s taken on a side gig participating in pharmaceutical advisory boards. On average, she said this takes about 3-4 hours of her time weekly and brings in about $200-$500 hourly.
There are some costs associated, however. She said that the income is subject to “some ‘fees’ through my institution.” On the whole, however, she added, the experience has been a good one.
“It allows me to interact in a small group setting with other physicians working in my field at other institutions, as well as colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry,” she said.
While she recommends the side work for other doctors, she tells us that it may be hard to come by. “These are invited roles, so it’s not always easy for a physician to market him/herself toward these roles,” she said.
Sound interesting to you? Check out this MDLinx article for tips on getting your foot in the door. Networking is key to landing one of these invited roles, an expert told us, as every doctor knows somebody who works in pharma.
One enterprising physician who also happens to be an attorney told us about her fascinating side hustle. To be clear, she acknowledged that this isn’t something most doctors will be able to do. However, we’ve decided to include it to highlight the scope of available options to people who are bright and capable, like doctors.
“I am also a patent attorney and have a small solo patent law practice which I am ramping up to bring in more money,” she explained.
In the MDLinx survey, 48% of respondents said that COVID-19 has made them rethink their career choice. Twenty doctors (6%) said they’re planning to leave medicine for a new career. Of course, law school would require you to do well on the LSAT and have the time and money for another three years of education—both of which may be in short supply for you right now.
The doctor-lawyer added that she also works for the Social Security Administration (SSA), reviewing disability claims.
“That might be a good avenue for some physicians, but it can be pretty frustrating work, and training is time-intensive.”
According to the SSA, each state’s Disability Determination Services office employs medical consultants, including physicians, who review each disability application case. The SSA doctors may review an application’s medical reports or speak to other physicians and/or hospitals that treated the applicant. In the event of incomplete information, SSA-employed physicians may request that an applicant undergoes an additional exam.
One physician in private practice told us that she’s still struggling to keep her business afloat despite her several side hustles. This doctor is providing weekend call coverage at a local facility, performs mental health disability exams for veterans, and has signed up to offer telehealth services “with a national organization.” However, the last option has not produced any income.
“Even though I have incorporated the above activities, I am still well below income as compared with 2019,” she said. “I had to eliminate one employee. I am not sure if my practice will survive another 8 months. Patients cannot adhere to treatment without insurance coverage or income.”
This doctor’s situation is an important reminder that none of us can “outwork” this pandemic's economic or health realities. But we might be able to help each other out by sharing ideas.
This post originally appeared on PhysicianSense, a lifestyle blog for healthcare professionals, brought to you by MDLinx. PhysicianSense provides doctors with insights into healthcare, business, careers, personal finance, and life outside of medical practice.