Nashville Poised to Benefit from Health IT Infrastructure

health curveAs consumers begin to pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums and spend more out-of-pocket on healthcare costs via greater deductibles, they demand better services, conveniences, improved productivity and digital access to information and professional guidance. As a result, the Health IT industry, which creates technologies used to store, share and analyze health information, is poised to grow significantly. HIT products can include anything from digital ways to store medical records, high-tech methods to connect with a physician, as well as apps or personal tracking tools to monitor health.

A recently released Brookings Institution report discussed at last week’s Nashville Technology Council meeting explains the importance and economic promise of creating “regional Health IT clusters” in addressing this growing consumer need. The report notes the Nashville business community is a national center of hospital management with important expertise in “clinical care, disease management, behavioral health and wellness, diagnostic testing, data management and the management of physician transactions.” As a result, the metropolitan area could become a major leader and national hub for HIT.

Nashville’s business community offers exceptional resources. The report explains, “More than in any peer region, Nashville’s mix of workers in medical and diagnostic fields skews toward occupations with higher STEM skills. Nashville leads comparable metro areas in the STEM-intensive occupations…” The Brookings report notes these important occupations “support technology applications and development related to health care” (28). Further, this area has a large share of people working in medical records as health information technicians, whose insights and knowledge can contribute in a HIT cluster.

One way to help create an improved infrastructure is to create stronger connections between potential partners throughout the region. The report suggests “firms, institutions, workers and entrepreneurs constantly link up to marshal distributed resources” in order to help innovation thrive (31). However, Brookings found the “vibrancy and connectedness of Nashville’s HIT ecosystem” to be “thin and inconsistent.” They outline how important it is for large firms to contribute when creating such an ecosystem, but remind readers that start ups and entrepreneurs are crucial to overall success.

With an active, supportive and encouraging business community, Nashville can seize on information from this outside consultant and take immediate steps to improve in this area. Civic, public and private institutions, including business leaders and organizations, such as the Chamber, the NTC, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and other groups and committees, as well as government leaders and business owners and executives at companies of every size should consider these recommendations and move forward to quickly create the strong and consistent infrastructure necessary to ensure our economy takes advantage of the opportunities at our disposal to move Nashville to become a strong hub for HIT.

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