Opinion by Hayley Hovious | Tennessean
Nashville built today’s health care industry. Now, it’s our job to move it forward.
Given the convergence of industries that regularly look to Nashville for leadership – from music and entertainment to academics and professional sports – our city is used to VIPs passing through.
So, it makes sense that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar joined Gov. Bill Haslam on-stage this week to speak with members of the Nashville Health Care Council about his vision for the future of American health care.
Most Nashvillians know we are the birthplace of the modern health care system. The founding of HCA in Nashville in 1968 spurred a new era for health care services, and a new way to deliver innovative care and treatment to patients on a national scale.
Fifty years later, local health care leaders are actively considering our city’s role in shaping the future of health care – and hosting the conversations to make it happen.
Through the decades, the Nashville health care community has grown from a single, disruptive startup to a massive economic force with global reach. New numbers from a research report conducted by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce show Nashville’s health care industry has a $46.7 billion economic impact locally.
More than 500 health care companies operate in the city, supporting an additional 400 professional service firms with health care expertise. All told, these health care companies employ more than 270,000 people and support 27 percent of all earnings and income in Nashville.
The impact of our local health care industry reaches far beyond Nashville. Across the globe, Nashville’s health care industry generates over $92 billion in annual revenue and supports more than 570,000 jobs worldwide.
And while tourists flock to Nashville for the honky-tonks more than the health care scene, entrepreneurs are a different story.
In fact, one of the most important dynamics of our current health care ecosystem is the influx of new people looking to change the model – and the “old guard” that has opened doors for the conversation.
Members of this new generation of leaders have expertise in diverse fields such as technology, academia, hospitality and retail. Now, people from these and other sectors are convening in Nashville to discuss solutions for health care’s toughest challenges.
They’re attracted by Nashville’s dynamic culture of entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration, as well as the unmatched health care expertise found in our community.
They’re also attracted to Nashville because they know this is where the change will start.
The health care industry Nashville created must evolve drastically to meet the needs of the future. And there is nowhere in the country with more talent or more intellectual capital already fueling this evolution than right here in Middle Tennessee.
We as a city need to embrace that status, not just as a health care hub, but as the birthplace of health care innovation. We must also support the evolution of our legacy health care companies into the systems they will need to become to address patients’ changing needs, without pushing more costs onto consumers.
As health care grows toward 20 percent of our national GDP – and becomes an even larger topic in our state’s ongoing Senate race – the country needs Nashville, both its legacy companies and this influx of entrepreneurs, to work together to create solutions that draw upon the very best of our ever-growing ecosystem.
It’s clear that Nashville’s health care community has a unique ability to impact care at a national and global scale. But as health care shifts outside the four walls of a hospital, our leaders should aim to ring in this new era by catalyzing, whenever possible, the collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that first put Nashville on the map.
After all, we had the expertise to build the industry. Now, it’s up to us to drive its evolution.
Hayley Hovious is the president of the Nashville Health Care Council, a member organization that works to inspire global collaboration to improve health care by serving as a catalyst for leadership and innovation.