1. Opinion

Column: For our health care, a new medicine

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Published May 6, 2013

Have you ever watched an industry transform and said, "I wish I had thought of that?" Have you ever wished Facebook or Apple was your idea?

Well, here's your chance … before it happens. Health care is on the brink of its largest metamorphosis in our lifetime. In the past, most communities have allowed others to make — and profit — from revolutionary changes while they reacted to those shifts.

But as Buckminster Fuller once said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." Tampa Bay is ready to embark on an economic journey, stepping onto the ground floor of a massive new industry: health care.

One might ask: A new industry?

It may be better to say a disrupted and transformed industry. The keys to that transformation are embedded in our community in the form of entrepreneurs, existing life science companies, research facilities and universities: University of South Florida Health (and its multitude of initiatives), Moffitt Cancer Center, the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS), M2Gen, Draper Laboratory, SRI International and All Children's Hospital-Johns Hopkins Medicine. They are just the beginning of the list.

They are all dedicated to reinventing the health care system to accomplish three critical goals:

1. Increase the quality of health care.

2. Increase access to health care.

3. Decrease the cost of health care.

Big change is upon us. Because of the federal Affordable Care Act, the entire health care industry must shift from the current "fee-for-service" model to one that is based on "fee-for-results." This means the industry has an incentive to keep the population healthy and, if patients come into the system, to increase the quality of care, as well as the success rate.

Inherent in this transformation are abundant new technologies and companies and, along with them, new jobs and capital investment. Considering that the $2.7 trillion health care industry accounts for nearly 20 percent of the national economy, we are talking about huge economic development potential.

Being on the ground floor could be one of the keys to a strong and secure economic foundation for decades to come. A desire to understand the opportunity, how it fits Tampa Bay, and the next steps we must take to capture the economic opportunity are what has motivated health care and business leaders in Tampa Bay to create "MediFuture2023, Healthcare Disrupted," scheduled for May 13 at the Marriott Waterside in Tampa. (Find details on the conference, which is presented by the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation in partnership with the Tampa Bay Partnership Regional Research and Education Foundation, at

Some thought leaders, such as Harvard Business School professor and New York Times bestselling author Clayton Christensen, who will keynote MediFuture 2023, label the change as a "disruption." He compares the current health-care industry to mainframe computers, and the technology-driven health care upstarts to the personal computer revolution.

The existing system, unwieldy, bureaucratic and unsustainable under the pressures of increasing costs, is at a breaking point. That's especially true when one considers the innovation opportunities that are knocking at the door: in personalized medicine, electronic records, online scheduling and diagnostics, simulation for improved training, robotics for increased precision, telemedicine for increased access to specialists and expertise, and more.

Consider the following areas:

Quality and safety

Decreasing medical errors and creating "zero defect units" has never been more important — societally or economically. Assessment of physician and nurse competence, simulation, continuing education, surgical room checklists and other techniques will transform the safety of surgical procedures and hospital stays.

Personalized medicine

Molecular genomics and personalized medicine represent the biggest transformation for doctors and patients alike since the advent of antibiotics. From an economic point of view, the storage of an individual's genetic material, the incorporation into medical records and the ability to use those genetic markers to diagnose, treat and prevent major diseases represents an immense economic development opportunity.

Electronic health records

Evolving from electronic versions of paper medical records to electronic health records owned by the patient, with significant decision support and "best practices" built into the system, has been one of the greatest opportunities for transforming health. While software companies and health organizations have made huge investments in the "EMR wars," the true metamorphosis has not yet occurred, opening a burgeoning field of electronic health records, decision support technology and online health.

Medical devices

Nanotechnology has changed the definition of minimally invasive surgery and diagnostics from an endoscope that only needs one incision, to microscopic "nanobots" that can exist in one's bloodstream and monitor, and in some cases treat, aberrant conditions. The scope and range of next-generation devices is staggering and will change the way medicine is delivered, including who delivers it.

The "iPad-ization" of health education

Health care knowledge is being developed and consumed at a dizzying rate. However, in many medical schools, nursing schools and other health professions' institutes of higher education, the means by which these futuristic concepts are being taught is firmly entrenched in the "PowerPoint '90s." Online education, personalized learning and simulated models have turned education, and new product introduction and training, on its head. This part of the health care industry is in its infancy, and both established companies and startups have an opportunity to transform this market.

Tampa Bay has everything it takes to lead this future: to plant the flag and become the epicenter of this emerging and explosive "new" industry, rather than waiting for "the next big thing." But it will take hard work and dedication. Above all else, we will need collaboration — among our politicians, business leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as our academic, medical and research institutions.

Rick Homans, left, is the president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation. Dr. Stephen Klasko, right, is CEO of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida. They wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.