HCA Holdings Inc. and Community Health Systems Inc. control a large chunk of the nation’s hospital beds. That gives them significant power to change the health care industry.
So when the two Middle Tennessee hospital giants — and rivals — come together on something, the industry takes notice.
That’s why a new nonprofit group formed to solve health care’s tech woes has courted Milton Johnson and Wayne Smith to join its effort. The CEOs signed on, along with a host of other Nashville and national health care power players, putting serious influence behind the Center of Medical Interoperability that’s building its offices here in Nashville.
Interoperability essentially means the ability of different tech systems to communicate and share data. Technology is rapidly changing health care. And the push for electronic medical records has led to an onslaught of new tech vendors, each with their own proprietary software.
The problem is those systems don’t work together, meaning hospitals and doctors can’t seamlessly share information — which kind of defeats the purpose of going digital in the first place.
The government likely will play a role in solving this dilemma, but health care providers may be in a better position to drive change. They can demand more from their tech vendors by using their checkbooks. When two of the nation’s largest hospital companies say they won’t buy your software if it doesn’t work a certain way, it certainly limits your market share.
That’s the goal of the interoperability center. The center’s director moved the group here to stack its board with the biggest names in health care. And it has, from HCA and CHS to Vanderbilt and Ascension, the parent company of Saint Thomas Health.
Nashville is in a perfect position to lead on this effort. In fact, we have to. The region’s largest industry depends on it, if we want all eyes to stay on Nashville when it comes to health care.
Nashville had long led the way in the world of health care services, largely because we’re home to the two largest for-profit hospital companies in the nation, along with hundreds of other industry players. But larger tech cities are challenging us in the world of health care technology. This center could give us an edge in charting the industry’s future in the world of tech, while holding on to our mantle as the nation’s health care leader.
In today’s cover story, reporter Eleanor Kennedy talked with the man behind the interoperability center and why he chose Nashville to launch this initiative. It’s all about influence and purchasing power.