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Health IT exec to chair Nashville Technology Council
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Tomorrow, Healthspring Inc.'s Andy Flatt begins his two-year term as chairman of Nashville Technology Council.

Flatt's tenure will span pivotal years: NTC is due to launch or expand initiatives that help member-companies grow, expand local college enrolment in computer science, and provide new services for entrepreneurs.

At 47, Flatt (at right) is senior vice president and chief information officer of MetroCenter-based Healthspring, a managed care organization that focuses on Medicare Advantage and prescription-drug coverage. Healthspring (NYSE: HS) reported 2008 revenue of $2.2 billion.

Before Flatt's term ends in 2011, NTC will be responsible, among other things, for launching an online portal for entrepreneurship to support of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and Partnership 2010's economic-development efforts.

Flatt told VNC yesterday that important long-term issues – such as defining NTC's geographic service region, its relationship to biotechnology and other sciences, and other priorities – will probably be examined during NTC's strategic-planning retreat, Aug. 4.

During his past two years as chair-elect, Flatt has been most closely identified with defining and launching an NTC initiative aimed at increasing computer-sciences enrolment in local colleges and universities, with emphasis on retaining talented technologists in the market.

That "Turning the Tide" (T3) effort will continue, with Flatt remaining its chief advocate, but handing the program's reins to his new T3 co-chairs: Permanent General Insurance CIO Kent Fourman and North Highland Principal David Houghton, who are fellow NTC board members.

As NTC chairman, Flatt succeeds Beth Chase (at right), the founder and CEO of C3 Consulting LLC, based in Nashville. Flatt told VNC that Chase's enormous investment of time in NTC is more than a little daunting to him, as her successor, and he credited her with much of NTC's progress in recent years. "She has done more than any other single person – you would think that she is on staff," Flatt added.

Chase is obviously an accomplished multi-tasker: Her four-year-old company has grown sharply during her tenure atop NTC. She told VNC yesterday C3 now projects 2009 revenue greater than $7 million, with a workforce of 40 full-timers.

Flatt also credited NTC President and CEO Tod Fetherling with rapidly overcoming what he described as NTC's formerly "stodgy" image, by reaching out to "entrepreneurs and innovators," particularly the younger developers and entrepreneurs. (Not afraid to address such issues directly, Fetherling recently waded into a robust discussion of related issues on the VNC blog.)  Fetherling has also executed, during his first nine months in office, the rebranding of NTC.

Flatt joined Healthspring nearly three years ago, after six years with AIM Healthcare Services Inc., the Brentwood claims-management provider that recently sold to Ingenix (a UnitedHealth Group subsidiary).

Today, Flatt has about 100 Healthspring IT workers under his command, including more than 60 based in Nashville, and he's currently looking to fill five positions.

Other Middle Tennessee healthcare and health IT companies Flatt has served include Columbia-HCA Physician Services, Baptist Health Care Affiliates and Dialysis Clinic Inc. His entrepreneurial achievements including founding Aztec Software and co-founding MIQS Inc.

As a Lipscomb University alumnus, Flatt has worked for more than a year to enlist his alma mater in NTC's T3 initiative. He also volunteers as chair of a group of Lipscomb executives focused on information technology.

Flatt has also used his ability to mobilize people in the civic-affairs arena. Recently, he was among the leaders of a successful rezoning effort that was mounted by his Crieve Hall Neighborhood Association.

Partly as a result of the zoning victory, Flatt said he is seriously considering whether he, personally, should take a hand in addressing Metro Nashville technology issues, possibly including wi-fi and broadband deployment. Those issues were addressed two years go in a report from a Metro Council task force chaired by former NTC Chairman Darrell Freeman, founder of Zycron.  Metro has not taken action on recommendations in the report, per se.

Flatt also said that as NTC reviews its longer-term strategy, public policy issues at the state level may also get more attention. At the state level, also, a task force within the General Assembly examined state broadband deployment, and remains in operation.  Whether state or local, the broadband policy area is fraught with controversy, most recently around standards to ensure competitiveness, and around the role of public-private partnerships such as ConnectedTN.

Flatt's rise to the chairmanship is not the first for a healthcare-technology executive. The post has in recent years been held by executives from HCA (twice), Emdeon and Dell's healthcare sales team.

Among other professional activities, Flatt serves on the board of the Tennessee chapter of the Health Information Management Systems Society (HiMMS). Flatt earned his B.S. in computer science at Lipscomb University, in 1984. He is a native of Cookeville, Tenn., and attended high school at Tullahoma.

He and his wife of 23 years have two children, one a student at Lipscomb University, the other enrolled at Lipscomb High School.  ♦ 

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