Just as cable television can trace its roots back to CNN, Nashville’s fast-growing healthcare IT sector got its start with HCA, Inc., the hospital company founded more than 40 years ago in Music City. Leaders who helped HCA rise to prominence shared their insights on Dec. 7 at the Nashville Health Care Council’s panel discussion celebrating that group’s 15th anniversary.
“When we launched the company in 1968, there were operational and clinical challenges that couldn’t be met by computer technology,” said Thomas Frist, Jr., HCA co-founder and chairman emeritus. “It took information technology until 2000 to really catch up and be able to meet those challenges. Now we’re on the threshold of more innovation than at any point in my lifetime.”
Joel Gordon, now principal at the Gordon Group, has funded many healthcare IT startups through his firm Crofton Capital. “With 30 million new people coming into the healthcare system, there are opportunities abounding if we use information technology wisely,” he said.
Charles Martin, Jr., another HCA alum and chairman/CEO of Vanguard Health Systems, said IT has finally broken down barriers to common-sense communication. “When I got started in this business, hospitals weren’t talking to doctors – and doctors weren’t talking to each other. Now our processes are getting integrated, and that’s a big step forward. And IT is doing a great job of eliminating friction costs, which are more than 20 percent of total costs and don’t have anything to do with quality healthcare.”
R. Clayton McWhorter has also provided seed money to healthcare startups through his venture capital firm Clayton Associates. He’s a proponent of healthcare information technology because “we can’t overlook anything that can help manage costs in the next decade.” McWhorter also emphasized that public/private partnerships are more important than ever. HCA prospered during Phil Bredesen’s tenure as Nashville mayor and later governor of Tennessee. “You should read Phil’s new book, Fresh Medicine,” he said. “It’s an excellent roadmap for where we need to go in healthcare.”