By BROOKE WANSER
Industry growth and challenges were discussed during the Business of Healthcare conference Wednesday afternoon, completing a double-header after the Outlook Williamson business conference concluded inside Liberty Hall at the Factory.
The event, sponsored by Williamson, Inc. the county chamber of commerce, included a luncheon and a diverse panel of health industry executives moderated by Williamson Inc. president and CEO Matt Largen.
One panelist, Hayley Hovious, is the president of the Nashville Healthcare Council, a 23-year-old organization founded by healthcare executives in the region, including HCA.
Hovious pointed out that health providers in the region treat more patients than “pretty much anywhere in the country,” with a quarter of a million in the region employed in the field and an industry output roughly four times the size of the yield produced by the music industry.
In the newly released trends report compiled by the chamber of commerce, United Healthcare, Optum, Inc., and Williamson Medical Center are listed among the top employers for the county in the healthcare realm.
The healthcare industry is expected to grow 37 percent in the next decade, and is set to be the second-biggest employer in the region with nearly 20,000 employees.
Brent Turner, the president of Acadia Healthcare, whose corporate office and 350 employees are located in Franklin, spoke about his company’s focus on behavioral health.
Turner, recently appointed as the chairman of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS), said access to behavioral health resources through insurance is lacking nationally. “Behavioral health is a reality,” he said. “It’s not a shame, it’s a disease.”
Both Laura Beth Brown, the vice president of Vanderbilt Health Services and Tim Adams, the president and CEO of St. Thomas Health, spoke about the future of telemedicine, which includes diagnoses via online platforms like FaceTime and can be helpful to those in rural or remote locations.
Williamson Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Paul Bolin said the hospital has been on the cutting edge with a teleneurology program, which allows patients to remain in their communities while consulting with neurologists on health issues like strokes, seizures or severe headaches.
And though the county typically ranks number one as healthiest in the state, Tennessee frequently ranks in the bottom ten states for health measures.
Panelists expressed frustration with patients not maintaining their health after receiving recommendations from their care providers.
But Brown spoke about how Vanderbilt is attempting to combat poor health by incentivizing employees with discounts on insurance plans for hitting certain step counts and making healthier eating choices.
“As we start to address these concerns, we’ve got to think of the consumer, if it’s the employees, if it’s the patient, and we’ve got to align our services and our strategies to their motivations,” she said.