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Brookings Institution Study Looks to Nashville as Next Health IT Leader

The Brookings Institution recently released a study, “From health care capital to innovation hub: Positioning Nashville as a leader in health IT,” which positions Nashville as the city of the future for digital health.

“We really think Nashville needs to be put on the map for health IT,” said Scott Andes, lead author of the report.

The report finds that metropolitan Nashville possesses a unique opportunity to leverage its health IT (HIT) strengths and become the next leader for digital health. After examining the current state of the Nashville health, health management, and HIT sectors, researchers found that Nashville has several competitive advantages giving it the potential to become a center for HIT innovation.

One such advantage is the economic value of HIT to Nashville. HIT-related industries account for more than 100,000 jobs and $12 billion in economic output for the metro area, and HIT-sector employment rose 15 percent from 2010-2014.

Other advantages include large and stable health care companies making major IT investments; substantial flows of high-value products and services coming through the region; and a high concentration of health IT research at Vanderbilt University.

There are several challenges Nashville faces in becoming the next HIT leader. These challenges include:

  • Patchy HIT innovation infrastructure.
  • Skills and workforce demand.
  • Underdeveloped IT ecosystem.

“We do think it is an urgent moment where there is tremendous upside, but Nashville is not alone. Nashville has competitors,” said Mark Muro, a researcher at the Brookings Institition.

In order to capitalize on the opportunity before it, the Nashville metro area should address these challenges and commit to a leadership role in the industry. The report recommends three buckets where Nashville should strengthen its health IT (HIT) ecosystem.

The first bucket discusses expanding innovation infrastructure. Recommendations include creating simple and standardized technology transfer contracts with Vanderbilt University, establishing an “export” program to support young software firms, forming a consortium of IT firms, instituting a cross-industry working group for health care data, and better leveraging the Center for Medical Interoperability.

The report also suggests Nashville build its HIT skills base in the following ways: expanding the accelerator program at Belmont University, expanding nontraditional approaches to training in IT and coding, designing a mentoring program to provide HIT experience to students, and establishing Nashville as a center for sub-baccalaureate degrees and HIT credentials.

Finally, researchers recommend Nashville deepen the HIT ecosystem by launching a professional CEO network, sponsoring coding user groups and integrating them into major health care firms, instituting a HIT data-discovery challenge, strengthening the link between entrepreneurs and incumbent firms, and developing a brand and marketing strategy and campaign.

“I see this now as the time to seize the momentum and to really push it,” said Marty Paslick, senior vice president and chief information officer at HCA. “Health care is moving quickly but…not that quickly as regulations and financing doesn’t change that fast. We have to be diligent in these (next) few years working on it.”

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