by Milt Capps, Venture Nashville Connections | May 11, 2011

Nashville Health Care Council events invariably attract a sea of suited healthcare executives intent on networking and hearing wisdom from panelists. Yesterday’s “Financing the Deal” was no exception.

The dialogue, moderated by Brentwood Capital Tom Wylly, was keen and wide-ranging, touching on healthcare reform (“it’s in the rearview,” said one speaker) to IPO (“don’t go too early,” warned another).

However, it was probably the talk about needing to tell Nashville’s story to wider audiences that may have caught hundreds of Nashville ears in the Marriott ballroom on West End.

The good news: Unlike three years ago, when some¬†panelists broke the news that Nashville’s concentration of healthcare services was not nearly as widely known as locals might think, this time several panelists said Nashville’s is recognized as having real leadership resources, but needs to tell its story more broadly.

Goldman Sachs Managing Director Raz Zia encouraged Nashvillians to overcome its “modesty” and tell its healthcare story outside core healthcare circles in other cities, including New York and San Francisco. In addition to the industry’s concentration, he said, Nashville can stress quality of life for workers and their families.

Panelist Rob Digia, USB Investment Bank’s global head of healthcare banking, noted that the emphasis on healthcare investment is likely to rise, given that the sector is the best-performing among the S&P, with companies regularly beating analysts’ estimates and driving enthusiasm for the sector. The accelerating shift toward emphasis on consumers, rather than primarily business-to-business, plus emphasis on accountable care and improved outcomes means growing emphasis on “making providers smarter” about their practices, all work in Nashville’s favor.

Morgan Stanley Managing Director Andrew Bhak noted that HCA’s latest go-public move was an “historic event,” singular in its impact, and drawing attention to the sector. Digia added that such events have galvanized investors, creating in many cases increased tensions between strategic and private-equity investors, producing “a tremendous amount of competitive tension.”

Oak Investment Partners Manging Partner Annie Lamont weighed-in by noting that the world has become more “provider-centric,” which plays right into Nashville’s strengths in healthcare services. Nashville execs’ knowledge of providers and of value-creation and enterprise development in the services realm is “not replicable” elsewhere, she said. She said Nashville’s custom of “respectful” competition is valuable in this effort.