Nashville is growing at more than double the national rate and, as with any city experiencing the influx of new residents, there are issues. Sure, there’s traffic, and trust me, you can’t go anywhere in Nashville without that being brought into the conversation. However, in this case, the intersection of growth and the existing infrastructure of Nashville is good, very good. In fact, when you take into account the very strong and evolving shift in how we must do healthcare, the growth in Nashville, paired with the existing large companies, makes it a perfect place for where healthcare is headed. We need out-of-the-box thinking (especially from Millennials) in this conversation to push this shift into being.
Nashville is known for many things…the generous welcome to visitors who can partake in the arts, music, history, food, culture and nature which presents itself at every turn. Nashville is also known for access to higher education, having some of the nation’s best Universities within walking distance to our city center. But most important for this discussion is that Nashville has a fantastic healthcare presence. CNBC stated, ‘healthcare is a major part of the Nashville ecosystem, with a $38.8 billion impact on the regional economy in 2014.’ It is that very large presence which helps employ, and care for our growing population, which is no short order. On top of healthcare’s help sustaining the local economy it is also a major powerhouse with implications far reaching beyond our city alone, having 18 publicly traded healthcare companies operating out of the city. So that’s one piece of the puzzle and a very major factor in why Nashville is the perfect place to pivot healthcare.
As stated earlier, the next important factor, is that Nashville is growing, and the growth is most noteworthy in that it has a bit of the ‘Benjamin Button effect’. Nashville’s population is growing younger as it is growing larger. Millennials make up 25% of the US population but are over-represented in Nashville, with more Millennials present here than in the general population. This increasingly young demographic is pushing us to think and accommodate differently. Millennials are simply ‘different’ but that’s what makes Nashville a perfect place to watch what happens next in the healthcare space. This is the piece to the puzzle which makes for the perfect intersection for the future of healthcare; “healthcare” is one road. “Millennials” is the other.
The Millennial generation is a unique cohort in that they are connected to each other. They want things delivered in a way which suits them; their needs, their value perceptions and,very often, their space. They choose not to go to products, services or experiences but to have them available to themselves when and where they want. This is as far from a push economy as it gets. This is all pull, so best be ready because healthcare is in for a bumpy ride if the powers that be don’t take note now before it’s too late to right the ship. The great news is that this generation is an incredibly innovative and forward thinking group. They are willing to put ideas out there to address their needs and desires differently than ever before. They are the engine in innovation.
Here’s where the problem of this most perfect union presents itself. The current model of healthcare is not quick enough to address this shift. It is much like a large ship, and it takes an effort to make that turn and change processes and deliverables in a way which reflects the needs of a burgeoning subset. This lack of agility is what could lead to the crumbling of the monoliths of healthcare and a significant shake-up as we adjust to the new way of moving forward in this space. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can visualize and implement change, yet still lean on the old guard. We can get what we want, how we want it, but still be able to rely on the experience and stability of the current model.
I grew up in Western New York where the waterways were ever present. There were ships aplenty coming down our rivers and traveling about the Great Lakes. It was not uncommon to see an itty bitty (comparatively speaking) tug boat tethered to a great ship in order to help them navigate the waters with a bit more ease than they themselves could muster. It is this analogy which helps shed some light on what needs to be done and how Nashville is the perfect testing grounds, and potential model, for the new way of executing healthcare.
Innovation is key and fostered quite beautifully in the landscape of Nashville. Yet the issue is that the innovation is being done in a relative vacuum without much consideration for the existing structure in healthcare. Mind you, this is not by design. Quite simply, validating and executing grand shifting methods of doing healthcare without the financial backing of the giants that dot the healthcare landscape makes it a bit like a tug boat without its ship. It is in this moment, the time when the Goliaths realize they need David as much as David will come to rely on the Goliaths that all could be right in the healthcare world.The ship will be turned because of the help of the tugboat which will, with far more flexibility and agility, navigate the waterway that is healthcare in and beyond 2016.
So here lies the perfect intersection. When Goliaths extend their hands and David is afforded the bandwidth to continue to innovate, we will see the shift happen faster and more effectively than if these two powers don’t meet. As it stands, when they remain staunch and ‘siloed’ little gets done, or at least gets done quickly. The ‘bigs’ are too large to affect change in the near future and the ‘littles’ often lack the funds or validation to move their innovations efficiently and effectively forward. We are in ‘that moment.’ A paradigm shift is upon us and we need to have processes in place that tether the tugboat to the barge in order to get to a more patient-centric, better, faster, more innovative way to distribute and attend to our healthcare needs.