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'Person First Alliance' emerges in response to Brookings' HealthIT challenge
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Coalition looks to engage community more broadly

LARGELY OFF-RADAR, a small ad hoc committee of Nashville tech and healthcare executives has framed a campaign branded as the "Person First Alliance," after sketching possible gameplans for more than a year in the wake of last year's challenge from The Brookings Institution.

Unveiled Aug. 26, 2016, the Brookings report advised local leaders that a "very serious" key role in advancing innovation within the United States' healthIT domain was probably within Nashville's reach, if the city chose to pursue it.

Based on field work that began in 2015, Brookings outlined nearly a score of specific to-do's, all of which seem to have been regarded by those who read the report as well crafted, reasonable, unsurprising, and warranting a decision about what, if anything, should be done with it. VNC summarized the Brookings report here.

Now, after literally dozens of meetings spread across 13 months, the original group of allies is stepping further into the open under the umbrella of the Person First Alliance campaign theme (hereafter, PFA).

Ed Cantwell
Coalition quarterback

Responding to a Venture Nashville query, members of the group made clear last week it has recently designated as its point-man for an indefinite term Ed Cantwell, who is the founder, president and CEO of the Nashville-based Center for Medical Interoperability (CMI).

Cantwell's new role was confirmed during a joint VNC interview Oct. 13 with Cantwell and two other group members: Nashville Technology Council President/CEO Brian Moyer and Peter Rousos J.D., who is director of economic and new venture development in the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization at Vanderbilt University.

They also confirmed the group will engage much more broadly with the community, enlisting a broader range of healthcare, tech, workforce and economic-development stakeholders in an effort secure the leadership opportunity Brookings helped identify.

The date and venue for a major stakeholder meeting have not yet been announced. Ahead of that meeting, companies or individuals considering a strategic role within the PFA campaign or related activities should contact Cantwell at CMI.

CEO Brian Moyer

Though the PFA campaign brand was first publicly mentioned by Moyer during his NTC Annual Meeting address on Oct. 5, it was nearly five months earlier that PersonFirstAlliance.com and .org domain names were registered by CMI staff, according to public records online.

The "Person-first" emphasis echoes growing awareness that "person-centered connected health" requires "next-generation" interoperable technology and systems that dramatically improve the flow of timely, relevant and accurate health and care information between individuals and healthcare systems and care providers, as well as pharmaceutical and medical device suppliers, if optimal care is to be provided with absolute minimal waste or error.

A related "person-centered connected health" white paper is soon to be published by members of the group supporting the PFA campaign.

The Person-centric care model has been around awhile in both the U.S. and internationally. The Nashville group is bringing heavy emphasis on connectivity and on vast improvement of the secure flow of reliable data among patients, providers, payers and others, as warranted.

Bill Stead M.D.

Nashville already has a record of contributing in this field: Person-centered connect care and the accompanying concept of data "liquidity" -- the fast rapid flow of information to those who need it, anywhere -- are close to the heart of the mission of the Cantwell-led CMI.

Further evidence of Nashville's prominence in this context: Data liquidity discussions often build upon pioneering work over the years by William W. "Bill" Stead M.D., who is listed as chairman of CMI's Technical Advisory Committee. Stead is also chief strategy officer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as McKesson Foundation Professor of Biomedical Informatics and a Professor of Medicine.

Jeff Balser M.D.

The stakes are high: Jeff Balser M.D., a CMI board member who is also dean of the Vanderbilt University Medical School and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, sent an unvarnished message last April during a gathering at CMI, when he assured attendees that failure of tech interoperability in the clinical setting too often leads to avoidable patient deaths.

Having been given a greenlight for leadership, Cantwell conveys a strong sense of moving very assertively on PFA objectives, which seem to fit CMI like a glove, to the almost audible relief of others involved.

The consensus internally seems to be that by demonstrating progress through the PFA push, the group can achieve one or more relatively "quick wins" that are essential early-on when building such a broad-based, transformative program.

Virtually everyone interviewed by VNC on this topic in recent days, weeks and months -- some on the record, others on background -- has made clear that before their group unveils all the ideas and priorities they have considered, the organization needs more participants, and probably formal funding commitments and organizational structure through which to execute its tactics.

Even while leveraging CMI's progress on the "Person-centered" front, the group would probably not be wise to continue operating as what one person characterized as "a coalition of the willing."

While thinking and re-thinking such considerations may have made the group slow to pull the trigger, they are now moving ahead stepwise.

Scott Andes

Despite the passage of time since Brookings unveiled its recommendations, Brookings co-author Scott Andes told VNC on Oct. 9 that he still believes that with its extraordinary healthcare services industry base, a "Tier 1" research university and Medical Center under the Vanderbilt banner, plus being the headquarters city for the Center for Medical Interoperability (CMI), among other factors, Nashville seems to be a natural contender for HealthIT leadership.

Andes explained that while Healthcare and HealthIT influentials may be more readily identifiable in Nashville, generally cities looking to mobilize to pursue innovation discover that it's harder than they might imagine to find out "who's in charge" of key domains within key companies and institutions, and what goals they must satisfy to justify involvement.

"When [such a community mobilization effort] is working well, everyone knows who's responsible for what," with a clear sense of "what different institutions can bring to the table. It sounds simple, but it's really hard," because corporations, universities and others operate with very different timelines, contrasting risk thresholds and other variables.

"You want to be sure that institutions are doing things [within the coalition] that are fairly well aligned with their [current] institutional interests," Andes continued.

Much in line with the alignment principle, members of the PFA coalition have previously volunteered to focus on individual recommendations in the Brookings report.

For example, although Nashville Technology Council last year set up and is testing the value of maintaining a healthtech vertical under its umbrella, the association has also chosen to focus on workforce/talent development issues highlighted in the report.

Thus, much of NTC's work within the coalition is to be somewhat vertical-agnostic, rather than healthcare-exclusive.

Not surprisingly given its own string of recent recruitment wins, the Nashville Chamber will place even greater energy on recruiting healthtech companies. Two months ago, Netherlands-based healthtech player Philips announced its plans to bring 800 jobs to Nashville; and, in 2015, Chamber wins included Intermedix, to name but two recent coups.

The Chamber-affiliated Nashville Health Care Council will meanwhile target management/leadership domains, and TN-HIMSS could focus on healthtech educational initiatives. Vanderbilt has committed to tackling related technology commercialization and related matters.

As for CMI, in addition to providing a jumpstart for the coalition with respect to interoperability, data liquidity, data science and related areas, Cantwell told VNC that roughly a third of CMI headquarters space is likely to be dedicated to convening, educating, hosting and/or mentoring entrepreneurial businesses and other tech/data innovators.

The CMI website says plainly that its headquarters space includes a laboratory that "serves as a research and development center for members to improve interoperability," plus a Transformation Learning Center, in which clinicians explore the impact of technologies to ensure solutions are safe, useful and satisfying for patients and their care teams. The Center's technical experts and visiting engineers from industry work together to develop IT architectures, interfaces and specifications that can be consistently deployed by health systems, medical device manufacturers, electronic health record vendors and others."

Already residing within CMI are Nashville Health, TN-HiMSS, Evolve Women and the engineering firm AU40, Cantwell confirmed.

Andes' work at Brookings is no longer focused on Nashville's HealthIT gambit, so he offered no opinions on progress in Music City.

However, he did point us to Pittsburgh's response in the wake of an analogous 18-month study in that city, titled Capturing the Next Economy: Pittsburgh's rise as a global innovation city.

Andes pointed-out that within a few weeks after he delivered his findings to leaders in Pittsburgh, stakeholders there had create a new identity for their push, appointed an executive director, had set up a coworking site to support their goals and had obtained commitment from key institutions with respect to support in the form of funding, personnel, policy and other support.

In addition to a road-map for short-term wins, Pittsburgh also quickly created a 10-year-plan to improve the innovative capacity of the city, with dozens of stage-gated objectives, the aggregate cost of which would be $100 million or more in current dollars, if fully implemented, Andes continued.

"What trips people up is recognizing that people and organizations are going to have to make sacrifices. If there are to be resources associated with these things, then either the recipients or the organizations in charge will have to do business a little differently," said Andes.

If the initiative is crassly seen as merely "a new way to 'invigorate our existing funding base', without doing anything differently, that's the kiss of death," said Andes. "You have to get organizations that are [already] hungry and are willing to do different things."

"The real underlying work [centers on] moving institutions," which Andes said means the community must have "dual strategies."

The largest and most influential institutions often "don't have to play ball" and "come to the table," so local organizers must have "big plays" that can produce compelling longer-term benefits and "a big play," while also successfully executing shorter-term gambits that allow players large and small to begin to turn gradually onto the same course.

Just as Force or Impact ultimately equals "Mass times Acceleration," local initiatives need the energy of both short- and long-term actions, said Andes.


Cantwell, Moyer and Rousos were asked by VNC whether or not the DRAFT "Connected Nashville" (CN) recommendations issued last week by the Administration of Metro Nashville Davidson County Mayor Megan Barry had any effect on the PFA initiative or other tactics the group has planned.

CIO Keith Durbin

Both they and Metro Chief Information Officer Keith Durbin told VNC that those draft CN recommendations will, in Durbin's words, "support and augment community activities" such as those undertaken by the PFA sponsors.

Durbin said Metro Government invites feedback from the community through Friday, Nov. 10. The survey link is available here.

In addition to Cantwell, Moyer and Rousos, the coalition supporting PFA has from the start included representatives of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce (CEO Ralph Schulz and/or CEDO Courtney Ross), the Nashville Health Care Council (CEO Hayley Hovious), TN-HIMSS (Change Healthcare SVP Tommy Lewis), and Mayor Megan Barry's Office of Economic & Community Development (Director Matt Wiltshire), with more limited involvement by numerous other government, technology and business influentials associated with stakeholder groups.

Prior to formally launching CMI in Nashville in 2015, Cantwell, now 60, served as COO of a predecessor organization based in the Los Angeles Area.

He is a former U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter pilot and served 12 years on active duty. After the military, he served in leadership roles with the West Wireless Health Institute, Inner Wireless, Spectrapoint, Bosch Telecom and Texas Instruments. VNC

. last edited 8 November 2017 0753

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Tags: analytics, AU40, Brian Moyer, Brookings Institution, Center for Medical Interoperability, Change Healthcare, Courtney Ross, data liquidity, data sciences, economic development, Ed Cantwell, Evolve Women, Hayley Hovious, Intermedix, Jeff Balser, Keith Durbin, Matt Wiltshire, Mayor Megan Barry, Megan Barry, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Health Care Council, Nashville Technology Council, Person First Alliance, Peter Rousos, PFA, Philips, Ralph Schulz, Scott Andes, TNHIMSS, Tommy Lewis, Vanderbilt University, West Wireless Health Institute

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