If you’re thinking about the future of health care, you should be mindful of Steve Jobs. Whether that comes in the form of optimism or wariness depends on your perspective.
For Charlie Martin, a veteran hospital company CEO and the head of investment firm Martin Ventures, Jobs’ innovative ability is emblematic of the way the slow-moving health care industry will ultimately be transformed: by an outsider entrepreneur who can build something people don’t yet know they need.
In Martin’s view, one of the biggest reasons health care lags other industries and continues to grapple with technology’s inability to communicate and share data seamlessly — an issue known as interoperability — is because the existing players in the industry don’t want it to happen. And that leaves them vulnerable.
“I’m afraid the people who are running it now have too much to lose,” Martin said. “The reason we don’t have interoperability today is most of the people in the system don’t want it.”
But other health care leaders are more confident in the industry’s ability to disrupt itself and support innovation. In fact, that’s one of the ideal outcomes for the Center for Medical Interoperability, a new Nashville-based nonprofit led by some of the industry’s highest-profile executives that is working to improve communication and data sharing between a variety of health care technologies.
“Steve Jobs didn’t have to invent the internet … he built on top of that utility,” said Ed Cantwell, the center’s CEO, seizing upon Martin’s analogy during a Nashville Business Journal panel Tuesday morning.
The center’s mission involves bringing together the providers who buy technology with the vendors who create it, and together finding a way to make medical devices and software communicate just as easily as bank ATM cards or a VCR and a television. With the help of a framework established by the center, Cantwell argued, innovators can more easily push health care forward, whether they’re coming from inside the industry or elsewhere.
And for HCA Holdings Inc. CEO Milton Johnson, who presented Tuesday’s keynote address, achieving true interoperability will allow the hospital giant to build on three key factors to drive health care forward: consumerism, advanced data analytics and care coordination.
All three of those factors demand the free flow of data and information in order to allow the industry to improve outcomes and efficiency — defying, in some ways, Martin’s predictions.
Nashville, Johnson said, has “unparalleled expertise” that the city’s health care community can use “to disrupt the status quo.”
“The time is right to make ourselves known for the number of lives we improve, not just the number of beds we manage,” Johnson said.
For more of Johnson’s thoughts on HCA’s ability to lead the industry’s next steps, check out this exclusive Q&A.