Healthcare leaders in Austin, Texas, are trying to replicate the success that Nashville has enjoyed as an incubator of healthcare innovation and services.
Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist, who is a member of the founding family of HCA Holdings, told the inaugural meeting of the Austin Healthcare Council this week that hundreds of companies with lineage to HCA grew up in Nashville. They were all drawn by the spirit of collaboration fostered by local leaders and the Nashville Health Care Council.
The council, which was started in 1995, has an annual budget of $3.3 million to bring together dozens of healthcare CEOs monthly for meetings, hold public forums and host a leadership fellowship that grooms up-and-coming executives for their challenges.
Austin is an entrepreneurial hotbed with 300,000 people employed in information technology and software creation, said the new council's president Gus Cardenas.
Facebook, Google, Apple and Dell all have a major presence in Austin. The new University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School also opened this July.
Those professionals are seeing opportunities in healthcare as the industry relies more on software for population health management and the data necessary to make the shift from fee-for-service to value-based purchasing, he said
The council is an effort to take that energy and help match entrepreneurs with providers and investors to promote technology development, he added.
Frist, a heart-transplant surgeon who served as Senate Majority Leader between 2003 and 2007, was asked what he sees coming out of the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
He said state block grants would provide the 19 non-expansion states the kind of flexibility they desire to get on board and expand Medicaid tailored to their populations.
On the other hand, block grants would pummel states that can't keep up with healthcare inflation, Frist said. A block grant program that splits the cost 50/50 between states and federal government quickly becomes a greater burden on the state if the federal grants remain flat in the face of annual national costs in healthcare spending of 6% or so, he said.
"I believe those states that expanded (Medicaid) will stay expanded,” Frist predicted.
He said the recently signed 21st Century Cures Act that boosts research, mental health spending and promotes precision medicine is a good sign that Congress is capable of bi-partisan legislation aimed at fueling consumer transparency and incentivizing providers for quality and cost.
He said the Austin Healthcare Council could engage the many hospitals, physicians and technology companies in the region in a dialogue about that future.
Cardenas said his group hopes to replicate the Nashville council's programming.
The inaugural board of directors includes Bill McLellan, chief development officer at Family Eldercare, Dr. William Rice, senior vice president for clinical innovation at St. David's HealthCare in Austin, and Dr. Philip Sanger, managing partner of venture capital firm TEXO Ventures.
The founders, including Sanger and McLellan, took about 18 months listening to the needs of professionals and benchmarking other councils, particularly Nashville's, Cardenas said.