Expert networks have been around for decades, facilitating thousands of small healthcare consulting projects each year, yet they remain mostly unknown to people who work outside the investment and management consulting circles. There are over 140 expert network companies around the world, generating nearly $2 billion in annual revenue! These companies have grown in value and influence over the years but remain mostly untapped by medical professionals and companies who could benefit from their knowledge. For a physician, nurse, pharmacist, or even a veterinarian, who spends most of their time taking care of others, you’ve likely never even heard of them. Let’s fix that!
As their name implies, expert networks connect pre-vetted experts in a multitude of fields with clients seeking to gain more insight about a market, a product, or a service in the expert’s area of expertise. The typical engagement is a one-hour phone call with an investment professional or management consultant who is looking to do a deep dive on a topic. The conversations are usually pretty engaging, you can schedule them at whatever time works for you, and you can set your hourly consulting rate at several hundred dollars or more. There is nothing to prepare, no follow up, and payment is usually sent straight to your bank account within a week or two.
These networks operate somewhere between a conventional, big consulting firm and a former medical director who moonlights by explaining the clinical lab testing market to an aspiring entrepreneur. Medical professionals undergo many years of education, followed by specialty training, and possess a depth of knowledge that the uninitiated do not have. The problem is you’re too busy taking care of patients, charting, and conducting research that you don’t have time to seek out other opportunities. One of the best facets of expert networks is that once you’ve created a profile, they’ll generally call or email you with relevant projects!
Expert networks remove the friction in seeking out these opportunities by bringing companies in need of your expertise to you. Consultants often get paid between $200 to $500 per hour for their insights through phone interviews and surveys – others land engagements with more generous compensation for participating in expert panels and teleconferences. (Those few with significant and hard to find experience can charge hourly rates that approach $1,000.) The expert network pays you directly, usually within a week or two, so there are no hassles with billing.
Oftentimes, your introduction to an expert network will be when they reach out to you about a healthcare consulting project they are sourcing qualified experts for. They tend to endlessly troll LinkedIn, looking for prospects who match their project requirements, so a detailed and current LinkedIn profile can help you get noticed. Once you’re invited to register with an expert network, you’ll want to create a detailed profile on their website as well, describing your education, medical training, research activity, publications, or clinical experience. You’ll get an email with a few instructions, and depending on the particular network, your credentials will be verified to ensure the quality of consultants. Most networks will contact you periodically with engagements in your areas of interest.
Typical healthcare expert network consulting projects
The value of these networks is evident in healthcare, which I would argue is so fragmented that you have hundreds of niche industries within it. The opportunities to impact patient outcomes by providing necessary context to those working in the industry’s non-clinical side are limitless. For example, when I first sought consulting engagements, I came across a gig sponsored by a manager at an investment management firm seeking insight into how telemedicine software such as eVisit, Doxy.me, and Teladoc fit into medical practice. They wanted to know how the tools were perceived and what data influenced purchasing decisions at clinics and health systems. After completing an emailed brief, they selected consultants who saw patients or analyzed usage data from these platforms. During a scheduled 30-minute call, the consultants were asked to describe their recent experience using these tools and the features they found most valuable.
Besides doctors, these types of opportunities are available to various medical professionals such as pharmacists, nurses, clinical researchers, physician assistants, physical therapists, lab techs, veterinarians, and countless others. In another engagement, insight was sought from researchers knowledgeable about a drug in development. Before proceeding with this engagement, the expert network screened the clinical researchers and pharmacists identified by their algorithm to rule out conflicts from prior relationships – either with the company developing the drug or a competitor. The researchers affirmed their agreement to the non-disclosure of confidential data about clinical trials involving the drug before proceeding to a phone call. During the engagement, they discuss the latest trial results and how the drug in question could be perceived by regulatory bodies such as the FDA. From my experience, colleagues who conduct clinical research in a particular disease area, such as diabetes, can use their knowledge to assess drug candidates in other disease areas within endocrinology, such as thyroid or adrenal disorders. Putting their ability to use in a disease area indirectly related to their primary research also helps consultants stay objective and avoid unknowingly disclosing non-public information.
Getting started with healthcare expert networks
So how do you land your first expert network project? You increase your chances of getting invited to participate in projects by first making sure your profile is complete. Don’t just paste your CV, instead be sure to describe ways you excelled and now stand out in your field. If a network lets you see other experts’ profiles (this is rare), you can check out the best performing profiles within your niche for inspiration. Gerson Lehman Group (GLG) is one of the older networks with over 600,000 consultants who they call “council members”. While you may not immediately land a project there, GLG works a lot with investors and will walk you through essential industry regulations that guide physicians lending their expertise to publicly traded companies, for example. Networks such as AlphaSights, Third Bridge, Guidepoint Global, and Coleman Research also offer opportunities to engage in fulfilling work outside of clinical medicine. Deepbench and Catalant boast thousands of professional profiles in every industry. In contrast, others like Apex, Dexter Expert, FirstThought, Medherd, and NewtonX are either newer or more specialized and have their strengths.
The way these networks pair you with clients may vary. Some will list healthcare consulting projects in their online portals for you to indicate interest, while others handpick consultants based on their profile and work histories. Some networks create assessments in addition to the initial sign up questionnaires to determine levels of expertise, while others use complex algorithms to assess suitability for a project. You’ll rarely see consultants matched with clients based on interest in a subject area alone. Most consultants need practical experience to be matched with a project in their area of interest. Did you spend a summer five years ago working on a project on some obscure topic that is now seeing lots of media coverage? That needs to be highlighted in your profile. Clients want to tap into people who can give them an edge. They value the time you’ve put into mastering the scientific method and building your clinical or research skills through years of rigorous training and specialization.
Each network offers a slightly different flavor in terms of the type of engagements and compensation methods. Most meetings begin with a brief on the project. Your response to this brief would help the client cement their interest in proceeding with the next step. Sometimes the expert network facilitates this through a web interface for easy communication with potential clients. If the client contracts your services, you will schedule a phone call at a mutually agreed time. This call is the most common type of arrangement you can expect from a client you meet through an expert network. Clients may require that you complete a survey, comment on a product concept’s clinical feasibility, provide your expert opinion on a medical product, or create a report based on the materials they provide to you.
In addition to the extra income, you may find many of the healthcare expert network consulting projects you encounter on these networks interesting. I often say a project is a match if a large amount of the engagement intersects with work you would otherwise (voluntarily) do for free. This mindset is so vital in an age when a majority of physicians and other medical professionals have experienced some form of burnout. Through expert networks, you can now effortlessly get matched with projects you would enjoy working on in your area of expertise and make extra income for all that time you’ve spent mastering it.
About the author
Dr. Dozie Matthew Ezerioha is a physician, entrepreneur, and digital health expert. He has worked with startups and life science companies for over a decade and founded the healthcare-focused expert network at medherd.com, which combines insights from clinician reviews with real world data to drive the adoption of the best healthcare products.