NASHVILLE “does not have the reputation it deserves” in healthcare IT, said Mike Schatzlein, president and CEO of St. Thomas Health in Nashville, and market leader for parent Ascension Health.
Nonetheless, the city could become a candidate to play a major role in creating standards for much-needed interoperability among healthcare information technology systems, said Ed Cantwell, who is chief operating officer of the 15-month-old Center for Medical Interoperability (CMI).
The Center was “created with funding from the Gary and Mary West Foundation, and personnel and technology from the Gary and Mary West Health Institute,” according to information online.
Both men spoke yesterday in Nashville, as part of a panel discussion during the annual meeting of LifeScience Tennessee, held at the DoubleTree Hotel.
Schatzlein said during yesterday’s panel discussion that “the lab needs to be in Nashville” and noted that the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is involved in preparations for recruiting the CMI lab to Nashville.
Representatives of the Chamber, Metro/Nashville economic-development staff, and the closely allied Nashville Technology Council declined to comment today on the matter; and, Nashville Health Care Council staff have not yet responded. This story will be updated, as warranted.
The West Health Institute has previously estimated that achieving needed interoperability could save the nation $30BN per year in improved patient care and safety, and related savings.
Asked after the panel discussion to elaborate on Nashville’s prospects, Cantwell declined to provides details for publication, saying only that it is early in the process and the idea has met with great interest in Nashville, as well as in some other cities.
A representative of the West Health Institute, which has an investment in Brentwood-based Change:Healthcare, also declined comment for publication.
Cantwell, who chose to become a Nashville resident about a year ago, told about 100 lifesciences executives that though “Nashville is not seen as a healthcare IT cluster,” as some other cities are, the nation, the healthcare industry and CMI, itself, “need a region of the United States to step up and say that Healthcare is going to be more connected.”
Panelist Cantwell told his audience yesterday that he is actively seeking to recruit CMI members and board members from among Nashville-based healthcare systems such as CHS, HCA and at least a dozen others.
He stressed that the healthcare operational expertise here and the “procurement power” of such companies are among factors that make Nashville a very competitive candidate for an interoperability laboratory of yet-to-be determined scope.
Sources told VNC today that Nashville is likely to compete for CMI’s “center of excellence” on interoperability with such cities as San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago and the Washington, D.C. area, among others.
The mission of such a lab would be to enlist providers in developing protocols and other standards for interoperability of medical devices, IT systems and, eventually, electronic medical records, Cantwell said yesterday.
One source noted that creating widely adopted standards for any industry vertical is a potentially daunting task, one made particularly challenging by the complexities of healthcare delivery, across the care continuum.
Another source told VNC that CMI’s selection of a city or region with a heavy concentration of hospitals and other providers is likely to come during 1H 2015, with a process for competitively selecting the winning region likely to be designed in the first quarter of the year. Cantwell, said the source, will not make the selection, unilaterally.
VNC also understands that Cantwell is recruiting not only dues-paying members for the organization, but has begun to recruit board members, with announcements of some of each likely in the near future.
Tod Fetherling, an entrepreneur now launching Perceptive Health, as well as a former CEO of the Nashville Technology Council, said that CMI is “definitely a group that we want to have in Nashville.”
CMI’s initial interoperability work would necessarily stop short of producing “the Holy Grail” — standards that create one seamless, interoperable healthcare information system, from the bedside realtime to the EMR/EHR, said Fetherling.
However, he said, as that work progresses, it could have enormous impact in averting healthcare errors that can lead to patient deaths, while reducing healthcare costs, and solidifying Nashville’s role in the global healthcare sector.
Fetherling noted that healthcare IT standards are “disjointed” for many reasons, including the fact that some device and system manufacturers to varying degrees impede interoperability due to some of the techniques they use for protecting their intellectual property. VNC