Nashville's Health Care Giants Need Little Startups More Than They Realize, Researchers Say | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville's Health Care Giants Need Little Startups More Than They Realize, Researchers Say

Aug 24, 2016

Nashville needs to build better relationships between big health care companies and tech startups if it wants to remain a powerhouse in the health care industry, according to a new report by the Brookings Institute.

Nashville's health care industry is filled with large, legacy corporations. Nearly 40 percent of all private hospitals in U.S. are run by companies based here. But, according to the Brookings report, the future of health care is where it intersects with technology — everything from apps that help doctors and patients communicate, to genomic testing, to better medical billing software.

"The winning entrant is going to be a hybrid of digital solutions married to deep knowledge of billing, transactions, all of the back office stuff," says Mark Muro, one of the authors of the report. 

Co-author Scott Andes says Nashville has the ingredients to win in the future: It has institutional knowledge of a very complex industry, and it has a high percentage of venture capital focusing on health care technology.

In other words, some big companies are already here, and the number of small companies is growing. But, he says, "this creates a real difficulty of having extremely small...entrepreneurs in the software space finding ways to interact with these massive multi-billion-dollar companies."

Some organizations in Nashville are already helping link the two sides of the health care ecosystem. The Entrepreneur Center, for example, brings on mentors from the big firms to advise small tech companies.  

But Nashville's established health care industry could also learn from Silicon Valley, Andes says. There, the tech giants often directly recruit startups to help them solve specific problems, because they can test ideas, take more risks and move faster. 

"[Startups] can develop competencies around these needs that larger companies face," he says. "Will it happen over night? Of course not. But in many parts of the country, big companies do get mileage out of their smaller firms."