Dr. Saya Nagori is an ophthalmologist and the CMO/Co-Founder of the telemedicine companies SimpleContacts & SimpleHealth. As an expert in this field, she is motivated to balance work and pleasure in a way that fits her preferred lifestyle's bottom-line. Have you thought about pursuing telemedicine as a passive income source but didn't know how practical it would be for you and your family? Dr. Nagori models how it's done.
I had the pleasure of interviewing her for this edition of True Doctor Stories for Passive Income Docs.
Tell us a little about yourself.
The specialty that I was formally trained in is Ophthalmology but over the last few years, I have been doing Telemedicine, both in eye care as well as consulting in other specialties. My private practice is located outside of Washington DC and my company Simple Health / Simple Contacts is located in Manhattan. I do a fair amount of traveling between NYC and DC for meetings for Simple Health.
I am really lucky when it comes to family – both mine and my husband’s family are east coast-based, so we get to see each other often. My husband and I love to travel, although it has become less frequent since starting my practice. We love hanging out with friends and family in NYC and DC – especially at our sushi restaurant! Shameless plug for our sushi restaurant Sakerum – the best sushi spot in DC!
Tell me about Simple Contacts and Simple Health. Why did you start them?
Honestly, I did not realize when we got started how big it would become. We have grown from a team of 3 to a team of almost 80. I met my co-founders in 2015 and the idea slowly evolved.
Telemedicine was not nearly as popular as it is today, and at the time to me, its growth seemed inevitable. I thought, what if we can reserve the doctor’s office and the in-person visits, for just the sickest patients?
We all know as physicians that no two patients are alike, but they are all scheduled for the same 15 minute or 30 minutes time slot.
My healthy 25-year-old patient with no complaints and perfect vision, simply there for an Rx refill, requires less of my time than my 80-year-old glaucoma patient who has already lost significant vision.
Simple Contacts and Simple Health are aimed at doing that – creating appropriate risk stratification and providing simple solutions in a growing patient population.
How did you get started?
I had been dabbling in the entrepreneurial space solo since 2011. I went to every meetup, conference, and networking event that I could.
I watched a lot of YouTube videos, read a lot of blogs and newsletters, took in-person and online courses, listened to audiobooks on my subway commute, and often learned by trial and error.
I actually invested money into my own failed ideas from 2011 to 2014. After going to several meetups, and talking to many, many, many people, I got introduced to my co-founder, now SimpleHealth CEO, Joel Wishkovsky, through a friend.
The two of us attended a startup conference, pitched the idea, and actually won the pitch competition. That’s when we knew this could really be something valuable to people.
How much time are you putting into the businesses?
It really varies. There are some weeks when I am traveling for it and it will take up 2 to 3 entire days out of my week. Other weeks, I am working from home, putting in maybe 8-10 hours a week.
You're teaching about it? How?
Yes! This has become a passion project of mine. Literally, every doctor I have met in the last three years wants to pick my brain about telemedicine and how to get started in this space.
So, while I was in between jobs in 2018, I spent 400 hours creating an online course for doctors and health care providers to get started in telemedicine. It is actually the only comprehensive formal training out there to help physicians and health care providers get started in telemedicine. [PIMD: You can check out my review of her course here.]
Are you still practicing medicine and in what capacity?
Yes, I just launched my own private practice outside of Washington DC. I decided to go out on my own because I am building it to be telemedicine ready from the ground up.
If you want things done a certain way, you really have to do it yourself. Additionally, by being on my own I can get things done quickly. No red tape from big institutions and I can build a practice that both patients and physicians are excited about.
My goal is to onboard doctors who will eventually be able to work at least two days a week from home via telemedicine and leave the in-office visits for procedures and emergencies.
How are you able to balance being a physician, being married, your companies, and all your other hobbies or leisure activities? Where do you find the time?
I literally have cut out everything that I was wasting time on before. If it wasn’t giving me either happiness or growth return, it was gone. The growth return could be personal growth, entrepreneurial growth, financial growth, or educational growth.
I also accepted that I did not have to do things that I did not enjoy. For example, I am not a huge fan of cooking. And, I am not good at it, nor am I efficient, and I really don’t care to become efficient.
Cooking dinner every night would take up 2-3 hours between shopping, prep, cooking and clean up. So, now I do it maybe twice a month if I really want to, and since it’s just me and my husband most nights, we will order or get prepared food from the grocery store nearby. As doctors, we think we need to do it all. And we don’t.
What are those hobbies or leisure activities? How do you let off steam?
This ties in with the above. I and my husband are very social so instead of cooking, we will usually go out to eat. We are the couple that will opt to sit at the bar at the restaurant and chat with our neighbors or the bartender instead of waiting for a coveted table. Aside from trying restaurants, we enjoy traveling and just hanging out with our family and friends.
I also try to work out 3-4 times a week.
Quite honestly, I have very little stress because I really love doing it all. Ever since I left traditional hospital medicine, my stress level has massively gone down.
I literally was so excited every morning to perfect a module for my telemedicine course, or record voice-overs. I would get up before my alarm went off. And that NEVER happened to me before a day I was scheduled to see 50 patients in the clinic.
How has the income from the brand impacted your practice of medicine? Do you consider it passive at all?
It is not passive right now, but as is true with any business – spend the time to build it now and eventually it will become a source of revenue that requires less and less of your time. But if you are an entrepreneur like me, or want to be an entrepreneur, you will probably be on to the next idea. But, the beauty is that the previous idea can now support your next idea.
How has income from the company impacted your family life?
This question is perfect as a follow up to the previous one. So, even though the income is not passive, the income from telemedicine has given me so much freedom!!! I can work from home so many days of the week and perhaps this is why my stress level has gone down so much. Think about how stressful the hospital or a busy clinic is.
Being in a calm environment like my own home and also being able to capitalize on pockets of time within my day is huge!
If I had a no show visit in the outpatient clinic in the hospital, then maybe I could return some emails or jump on a quick call. But if a patient no shows via telemedicine, I can get a work out in, I can fold the laundry, I can watch TV, I can take a nap! Telemedicine is not just great for the patient, it’s really great for the physician too.
And there’s no commute. There is no “Oh no, there is this unexpected accident on the road, and now all my AM patients are going to be pissed.” There were many days when
I used to arrive at the office already stressed out. In the strictest definition, no, telemedicine is not passive, but it certainly is about as close as you can get if you don’t want to completely leave clinical medicine behind.
Anything you would have done differently along the way?
I would have invested time and money earlier. It is so hard to take the leap for doing or learning anything new. You think, “Oh this will take up too much time, or this is too expensive, I will do it later.” But if telemedicine and entrepreneurship is something you have been thinking about, start now.
There is always a learning curve and those first few months are always a bit confusing and you feel like a fish out of water. But, you have to go through that no matter what. So it’s best to do it up front and get it over with.
Any piece of advice for other physicians who are considering pursuing other sources of income?
I would say invest in yourself. Yes, there are plenty of ways out there to make passive investments and passive income (and you should!), but make sure to save some of that money to invest in yourself to further your goals.
If you build a work life you love, it will be a source of joy for you. If there is something you have been thinking about whether it’s telemedicine or innovation, make the sacrifice – whether it’s time or money or both – and get over the fear of doing something new.
I and several other entrepreneurial physicians are hosting the first startup conference for doctors by doctors!
No other conference like this exists and we want to help all the budding physician innovators get into the space, help develop their idea, and welcome them with open arms into the health innovation ecosystem.
This space is not just for tech giants and doctors belong in it. Physicians are the brains behind healthcare innovation and we are giving them the resources to get their idea off the ground.
Even if your idea is not tech heavy, but it can make a difference, we want you there!
The website for speaker bios and ticket information is at www.medicineandtech.com. The speaker list is pretty impressive. And in an effort to deliver the best experience, and ensure great networking and facilitating connections, we are capping the conference at 100 physician attendees.
And feel free to reach out to email@example.com. I didn’t really have many doctor-preneur mentors, so I am happy to help other doctors when I can.
Did you enjoy this True Doctor Story with Dr. Saya Nagori? She has a great story most of us can relate to. Would you mind telling us what you loved most? Tap into Passive Income Docs Facebook group and let us know!