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Chris Mazzolini is the editorial director of Medical Economics
Alexi Nazem is chief executive officer and cofounder of Nomad Health, a healthcare technology startup designed to connect freelance physicians with locum tenens work.
Alexi Nazem, MD, MBA, is familiar with living in two worlds: He’s American and Iranian, a physician and an entrepreneur. The internist known for his curiosity believes his unique perspective at the intersection of business and medicine can help him provide a way for doctors to build more flexible and satisfying careers. He might just help solve the physician shortage along the way.
Nazem is chief executive officer and cofounder of Nomad Health, a healthcare technology startup designed to connect freelance physicians with locum tenens work.
Founding Nomad was a business opportunity for Nazem and his partners: the market for temporary healthcare staff is estimated at $15 billion.
But it also provided a way to leverage his desire to help physicians connect more easily with patients in need while taking on one of healthcare’s seemingly intractable problems: The frustrating task of looking for work as a physician, navigating a convoluted web of staffing brokers with inscrutable requirements.
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Nazem has his share of personal horror stories: giant applications that need to be filled out more than once because of minor technicalities, or months-long delays even for short temporary assignments.
“Doctors want to be at the patient’s bedside but the system that we have today is so complex that actually getting to the bedside is a very challenging task,” Nazem says. “It’s actually a very challenging series of tasks. Contrast that with applying on Nomad. It takes maybe five or six minutes to fill out a comprehensive application and then you can apply to any job on the platform.”
This is one reason why Nazem believes his company can help alleviate some causes of the physician shortage, which is in part a workforce liquidity issue. “There is also a lot of inefficiency existing in the system in terms of getting people to the right job at the right time,” he says.
Nazem loves to learn and figure out how complex systems operate. He credits his upbringing in a family of strivers and innovators. His maternal grandfather came from Iran and became a leading anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic, and he has more than 20 family members who are physicians. His father came to the United States with $20 and became a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.
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Nazem is devoting himself full-time to Nomad, which began in 2015 and today operates in about a dozen states. Nazem and his partners raised $4 million in venture capital funding in 2016. Their goal is to build a nationwide presence, including into the nursing and telemedicine markets.
Nazem has lived the long hours and worn the many hats of a start-up founder, doing everything from bookkeeping to hiring to marketing during the company’s early days.
He remains committed to seeing patients at least a couple of times each month. “I am running a start-up and I have almost no time to see patients but I find a way to do it because I love it,” he says.
Nazem knows his company can’t fix all of the challenges of working in medicine, but he thinks it can alleviate some of the frustrations and provide doctors with more career flexibility and happiness.
“What is dispiriting, what drives burnout for doctors is all of the sort of complexity around their work with patients,” he says. “What Nomad can and is doing, is enabling doctors to seize those opportunities to see patients and really get back in touch with their passion.”