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Robert Trigaux: Can ambitious Tampa Bay lay claim to health care innovation capital?

What if Tampa Bay thought it could become the innovative leader in health care?

What if this region tossed out the old school, overpriced health care playbook and tapped its growing expertise in personal medicine, drug development, robotic surgery, electronic health records, advanced medical devices, local clinics, hospital chains and medical education?

That's the bold and brassy multiyear ambition of an initiative by area economic development and health care leaders. The project officially kicks off May 13 with a one-day Tampa conference dubbed MediFuture 2023 (medifuture2023.com). It envisions a transformed and patient-centered health care system, 10 years in the future, delivering higher levels of care and access, at lower cost. And it seeks to position Tampa Bay as the "epicenter of disruptive innovation" in health care.

So says Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. CEO Rick Homans.

"As a community, we have a choice to make," he says. "Are we prepared to marshal our resources to plant a flag and say we want to be the center of this change? Or do we want to stand on the sidelines and watch as other communities around the globe carve out their opportunity while we scratch our heads and say, 'How did that happen?' "

Homans, who was recruited here just over a year ago, is eager to push the development envelope. He previously ran Spaceport America, New Mexico's commercial spaceport, where innovative thinking is mandatory.

Now he's looking years ahead to a day when Tampa Bay could be the place for innovative health care, just as the Paris Air Show showcases the world's aerospace industry or Austin's South by Southwest or "SXSW" celebrates film, music and creative technology.

The regional ingredients are already here, Homans argues, and just need to start connecting. Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Stuart Rogel is also backing this initiative.

A key ally is Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of USF Health and dean of USF's Morsani College of Medicine. "Tampa Bay has a chance to become the Silicon Valley for health care transformation," he said.

Klasko has outlined five areas to reimagine the future of health care: quality and safety; personalized medicine; electronic health records; medical devices; and the "Ipadization" of health education.

"This creates an opportunity to defragment our health care industry here," he said. "We believe that in a couple of years, folks will look at us and say, 'Holy moly, what's going on in Tampa Bay?' "

Klasko stressed this project is not a USF or Moffitt Cancer Center or Tampa General effort. "It is a Tampa Bay initiative."

Says Homans: "I consider myself a novice at this point. But I can smell opportunity. And this is an opportunity."

He reels off the potential building blocks here: USF, its medical school, its Center for Advanced Learning and Simulation, Moffitt, Johns Hopkins-affiliated All Children's Hospital, M2Gen, Draper Lab, SRI, hospital chains, medical device makers, entrepreneurs and health record specialists.

Sounds wild? You bet. Remember, this is a decade-ahead vision. This is the kind of thinking — from health care to mass transit to education — that Tampa Bay needs to embrace much more often.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Robert Trigaux: Can ambitious Tampa Bay lay claim to health care innovation capital? 03/07/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 7:04pm]
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