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Nashville mobilizes for U.S. Health technology leadership
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Nashville industry, academe and government are said to be creating an alliance that could breathe reality into Music City's dream of becoming the Silicon Valley of Healthcare.

VNC has been told by several sources that a new alliance of executives is forming here, drawing executives from healthcare services, technology, law, finance and investment circles, with an eye toward bringing coherence to Nashville's message, infrastructure and leadership.

Local officials likely to be involved in such an alliance have thus far been slow to respond to VNC queries.

Although they have been asked by VNC several times since Friday for comment on the rumored new alliance and on how Nashville might best capitalize on momentum in healthcare technology, no official response has yet been forthcoming from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Health Care Council, Nashville Technology Council or the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

Earlier today, executives representing those groups told VNC they were still attempting to clear a response for this story. This story will be updated, as warranted.

Intensified activity on the Health IT front is not limited to trade associations.

For example, Council Ventures General Partner Gary Peat told VNC today that Nashvillians will soon learn that a start-up healthcare information technology firm will be relocating to Nashville from elsewhere in the United States.

Peat said the deal is "done," and that Council Ventures is considering investing in the company. He added that the company is relocating here due to the concentration of healthcare resources, and not because of any contingency related to Council Ventures' possible investment.

Related: Nashville Executives comment on Health IT leadership, click here

Elsewhere in town this week, Bredesen Administration sources told VNC that Gov. Phil Bredesen's e-Health Council is searching for a new director to succeed recently departed Melissa Hargiss, and is putting the finishing touches on the state's new strategic plan designed to secure Federal funding for expanding Tennessee's fledging health information exchanges.

Meanwhile, over at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Bill Stead (right), director of the Vanderbilt Informatics Center, has been finalizing proposals due out today for Health and Human Services grants via the Stimulus-funded Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects (SHARP).

With the exception of the Chamber, which is currently chaired by Avenue Bank President Ron Samuels, key community groups that are central to the industry's stepped-up activity are chaired by current or former healthcare industry executives: NHCC is led by Chairman Joey Jacobs, CEO of Psychiatric Solutions, and vice chairman Ben Leedle, CEO of Healthways; NTC is led by its chairman, HealthSpring CIO Andy Flatt, and NTC President Tod Fetherling, who was previously in healthcare publishing; and, newcomer NEC is chaired by Clayton McWhorter, of HCA and Clayton Associates fame.

Perhaps more than at any previous time, the stars seem to be aligning for Nashville to validate its claim on an array of healthcare and healthcare technology leadership roles - ranging from regional health information exchanges, revenue-cycle innovations and electronic health records, to evidence-based medicine, drug discovery and informatics.

As a result, at both the State and local levels, health IT executives are focused in a near-frenzy on target-rich environment of funding opportunities.

In recent weeks, such visiting dignitaries as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and panels of healthcare investment experts have exhorted Nashville's healthcare sector to "embrace" the opportunity they see the city presently enjoying.

In addition, the recent green-lighting of Music City Center, Nashville's new convention venue, and the continued advance of the planned Nashville Medical Trade Center seem to have added further heft to the case for Nashville's pivotal role in the evolution of healthcare.

While Nashville's trade associations are mum for the moment, others have responded energetically when asked their thoughts. Most agree that Nashville is moving aggressively on a number of fronts, but there do remain untapped opportunities.

Comments from Nashville executives on those opportunities are included in an accompanying story, available here.

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Tags: Andy Flatt, ARRA, Ben Leedle, Bill Stead, Clayton McWhorter, Council Capital, Council Ventures, EHR, EMR, Gary Peat, health IT, Healthways, innovation, Melissa Hargiss, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Nashville Health Care Council, Nashville Technology Council, Ron Samuels, Tod Fetherling, venture capital

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