UK Trade Mission, D.C. Delegation Occur at Pivotal Point in History
Talk about timing … a delegation of Nashville healthcare executives touched down in the nation’s capital for a series of briefings with high-powered policy makers and leaders the week healthcare reform legislation was passed. This timely trip came just days after another group of local industry leaders returned from a study mission in the United Kingdom that featured meetings with key officials in London and Edinburgh, Scotland.
Now in its eighth year, the Nashville Health Care Council’s 2010 Leadership Health Care D.C. trip took place March 24-25. LHC Director Judith Byrd said more than 90 delegates representing a wide spectrum of the industry attended. “Leadership Health Care’s mission is to foster the talents of the next generation of healthcare leaders,” noted Byrd. She continued, this trip “introduces people who are emerging leaders to the healthcare policy environment and provides some insight as to how to participate in the policy landscape.”
LHC Board Chair Bo Bartholomew, CEO and co-founder of PharmMD, concurred. “Fundamentally, it allows healthcare executives to connect with those who are writing and influencing key legislation in D.C.” He added, “All of these delegations are incredibly valuable in building the dialogue between healthcare professionals and the influencers inside the Beltway.”
Having participated in several D.C. delegations, Bartholomew said there are multiple benefits of the trip including an increased level of knowledge as to how the system works, insight into what’s happening politically to provide a pulse on where the healthcare industry is headed, and … of course … relationship building.
The last benefit, he noted, is truly a two-way street. The city’s reputation as a healthcare epicenter has enticed high-ranking officials to take part in the meetings to foster relationships with participants. Byrd pointed out, “There probably has been no city that has brought as much innovation and entrepreneurial energy to the healthcare industry as Nashville.”
The ‘bench strength’ of the speakers has never been more evident than this year. The program offered Nashville delegates the truly unique opportunity of being the first healthcare executives to meet with Congressional members, healthcare policy advisors, and thought leaders following the historic reform vote. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had planned to meet with the group but was pulled away by the president to attend another meeting. Still, Byrd pointed out, the fact that the country’s highest-ranking public health official had committed to spend time with the LHC delegation speaks volumes about the strength of Nashville’s healthcare industry.
Even without Sebelius, Byrd noted, “We had a really unbelievable lineup.” The group heard from a full slate of Tennessee legislators including both senators; representatives from other Congressional offices including Wendell Primus from the Office of Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Kate Spaziani, senior health care advisor for Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND); Rich Deem with the American Medical Association; Chip Kahn of the Federation of American Hospitals; John Rother of AARP; Gary Bacher for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP); Matt Salo with the National Governor’s Association; Steve Wojcik representing the Business Group on Health; and Ann Kempski with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), among others.
Byrd said the event opened with comments from Chris Frates, a reporter with Politico, who painted a broad picture of the new healthcare reform law and political landscape. “We wanted to have a general overview with what was going on with health reform,” Byrd said of the lead off. “Then we flowed into more ‘drill down’ discussions by sector.”
Just prior to departing for D.C., Bartholomew summed up the feeling of anticipation among the Nashville delegates. “I don’t think we could have scheduled this at a more perfect time,” he said. “It’s a monumental, historical time in all of healthcare … and we’re going to be there with front row seats.”
UK Trade Mission
Nashville Health Care Council President Caroline Young barely had time to catch her breath between departing for the LHC trip to Washington and returning from the Council’s eighth international study mission. The March trip to London and Edinburgh was the third time local industry leaders have met with officials in the United Kingdom.
“This intensive study mission was a unique opportunity for delegates to learn first-hand about the British healthcare system and develop connections with key government and industry decision-makers for future business collaborations,” said Mission Leader Jack O. Bovender, HCA retired chairman and CEO.
Young concurred, “It was a great opportunity to foster existing relationships and establish new ones.” The trip, a collaborative venture among the Council, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and U.K. Trade & Investment, included 22 participants representing a broad spectrum of healthcare companies and allied service industries.
Although delegations have visited London before, it was the first trip to Scotland. “Their system is a devolved system from that of England so it’s an interesting juxtaposition,” Young explained. She added, “We encountered a great deal of interest in the policy discussions going on here as Great Britain is facing similar issues in increased cost of care and a need to improve access and quality.”
In addition to meeting with officials from the U.S. Embassy in London and U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, the team had access to high-ranking government leaders and key private sector industry executives. In London, the itinerary included a luncheon with the chair and several members of the House of Commons Select Health Subcommittee; a reception and discussion dinner with Dame Carol Black, national director for Health & Wellness; plus a host of panel discussions, industry tours, and policy briefings. British economic development group U.K. Trade & Investment served as a sponsor for the mission. “It was a further affirmation of the British government’s interest in meeting with us and discussing innovations in healthcare delivery,” noted Young.
The group received a similar reception in Scotland. After a welcome by David Smith, interim CEO of Scottish Development International, the Nashville delegation met with the Scottish Ministry of Health led by Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing. Delegates also enjoyed a briefing with the leadership of the Scottish National Health Service and panel discussions with executives from private industry provider organizations, academic institutions, industry associations and thought leaders.
Bovender noted Nashville’s reputation as a healthcare capital and center of innovation was what made it possible to put together such an impressive itinerary. Young added the group has enjoyed a positive reception on all the missions … in part because both the host countries and Nashville participants gain from sharing knowledge and ideas.
“These missions are important in establishing relationships at a high level,” said Young, “and for providing our participants new perspectives on delivering care and potentially setting the stage for future business collaborations.”
Bovender pointed out, “The past seven Council-Chamber trade missions have generated two-way business opportunities and valuable contacts for participants on both sides of the Atlantic, including recent visits from Swedish delegations that stemmed from the 2008 mission to Sweden and Germany.” Another example of the opportunities afforded by these missions, Young added, was the procurement of a contract to develop nine outpatient care centers and two hospitals in the United Kingdom by Nashville-based ProjX LLC … a result of the second mission to England.
These types of exchanges, Young concluded, are also beneficial on a more global level by helping spread the word that Nashville is a major center for healthcare expertise. The Council and Chamber plan to share that message in South America this November as the group departs for Chile and Argentina for the ninth healthcare study mission.