Virtual Healthcare Executives and the Gig Economy

By Ray Plummer, Vice President of Business Development at Skinner & Associates

The Google dictionary’s description of the Gig Economy is “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.” Uber, Deliveroo, Airbnb, Favor, Bellhop, and Turo are prominent examples of companies who utilize this model. Gig Economy success is driven by the highest consumer demand for access, cost-effectiveness, and convenience. In May 2017, Intuit (INTU) CEO Brad Smith stated: “The gig economy…is now estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and expected to be 43% by the year 2020”. the gig economyThis workplace shift has been created by demand within the marketplace for increasingly fluid and dynamic ways to access goods and services. As a result of technological advancement consumers and innovative companies now have the ability to conduct business in ways that were previously impossible. The secret to the Gig Economy is the ability for market participants to meet new and expanding consumers demands while creating an environment to allow its “employee/entrepreneurs” flexibility of choice regarding lifestyle, wealth, and autonomy.

While the leading Gig Economy based companies have established growing businesses for the business to consumer (B2C) segment, entrepreneurs are beginning to focus on innovative ways to address the market demands within the business to business (B2B) environment. As much as consumers have driven market demand for various B2C solutions, imaginative B2B businesses are replicating their operational model in order to meet and optimize internal personnel and skillset demands. Consulting and outsourcing may temporarily alleviate this challenge, but they may still lack the cohesiveness and interpersonal relationships required to be truly effective. This demand has led to the emergence of the Virtual Healthcare Executive (VHE).

What is a Virtual Healthcare Executive?

Virtual Healthcare Executives are highly skilled and experienced healthcare executives providing leadership, expert opinion and advisory. Typically, assignments are short to mid-term engagements with organizations challenged in finding, placing, or affording the highest caliber of industry leadership as full-time employees. VHE’s engage directly with organizational leadership to create a collaborative on-demand team environment. Utilizing a VHE model, leading organizations can tap into industry leading experts with the highest level of access, cost-effectiveness, and convenience. Unlike traditional consulting, this fluid level of leadership accessibility provides organizations with unbiased expertise available when and as needed, at a reduced cost, with no long-term commitment. Additionally, the VHE can augment existing organizational leadership by providing the specialized knowledge and expertise required to best help the organization adapt to changing market demands.

Dave Whitney, a recognized healthcare business leader and market innovator puts it best “The use of a VHE can significantly impact organizational success simply by placing the right expert, in the right place, at the right time.”

How does a Virtual Healthcare Executive differ from typical consulting engagements?

Many industry leaders are moving into this employment model as an alternative to full-time roles to better serve their personal interests while creating meaningful results for their clients. Traditional healthcare and staffing models limit creative and influential candidates who maintain a broader base of expertise or personal goals than typical employer-based models. Common drivers for individuals wishing to transition to this model are very similar to incentives enjoyed within the Gig Economy model.

  • Full utilization of knowledge and skill sets by meeting the challenge of unique problem solving only found by working with various organizations
  • Virtual placement requires minimal travel and does not generally require relocation
  • Personal gratification of giving back to the industry by making impactful changes
  • Flexibility to choose engagements and organizations they find personally rewarding and meaningful
  • Ability to take on as many or as few opportunities to individually fit work/life balance

By combining these incentives into a virtual executive role, the VHE can achieve a more satisfying career by tailoring it to their own individual lifestyle and economic needs. Additionally, challenges presented in this model allows a VHE to focus on specific areas of interest within the industry and select challenges which provide a high level of job satisfaction and personal reward.

Where does Virtual Healthcare Executive fit within an organization?

The VHE’s role generally maintains visibility within an organization just like other organizational leadership, but with highly focused objectives and with unbiased participation in the success of each initiative.

Real world example: Our client, a young venture capital-based company established an innovative telehealth platform however they struggled with the complexity of aligning vision with execution and cost. This new service line required high levels of healthcare technology integration with untested non-healthcare systems and a myriad of operational and regulatory challenges. Internal expertise was not available and permanently onboarding multiple individuals with the required skillsets was not a viable option to bring the product to market in the short time-frame required.

In this case, Skinner and Associates identified a strong VHE specialist and deployed this interim executive as a multi-role expert in:

  • Executive conflict mediation
  • Clinical and regulatory guidance
  • Healthcare technology subject matter expertise
  • Technology vendor negotiation
  • Operational process design and guidance

In this specific situation, by utilizing a highly specialized VHE the company was able to acquire top expertise quickly and at a fraction of the cost which would have been otherwise required. Additionally, the VHE was able to operate as an unbiased participant overcoming typical cultural collisions and governance hurdles. This allowed the organization to move quickly and with confidence that the alignment was well designed, balanced, honest and actionable.

Exploding Demand for VHE’s in the Market

Escalating complexities of healthcare have created a need within many organizations to bring in outside talent in order to bridge numerous expertise gaps. As population health initiatives and value-based reimbursement move forward (as examples) each new item has become a formidable issue which must be expertly addressed. Many organizations are now finding themselves wholly unprepared as they recognize that they don’t have the necessary expertise in-house. As such, the demand for VHE talent is exploding within the marketplace as the primary means to efficiently and cost-effectively address the numerous challenges currently faced by the industry.

Additional articles will be following in the near future. Each will explore the role that VHE’s play within healthcare in greater detail.

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Virtual Healthcare Executives and the Gig Economy