International effort

Most Nashville residents realize the city is a health care hub — but few likely are aware that a European country is studying our city’s health care models for learnings.

Philip Dunne, Great Britain’s minister of state at the U.K.’s Department of Health, visited Nashville recently to gain a deeper understanding of how the United States health care system uses big data to improve patient care.

“You’ve impressed upon me how significant Nashville is to the U.S. health care market,” Dunne told an audience of about 25 — mostly health care-related bankers and lawyers — at a panel the Nashville Health Care Council hosted in partnership with local law firm Baker Donelson in late September.

“The [U.K. National Health Service] for the second year running was accorded the accolade of the best health system in the world,” Dunne added. “But we know that we can always do things better, especially with data management.”

Dunne explained that his team is particularly interested in using data to improve the predictability of health care challenges and performance. The focus of his visit to Nashville was on elevating National Health Service information technology systems and software solutions to the world-class standards exhibited in Music City.

“We have attempted a top-down solution, which was successful, in part, but has not led to the degree of digital data capture and use that we know requires many systems here,” Dunne said. “And we’re looking at internal organization: We want to encourage NHS organizations to work more closely together to form more integrated systems for the patient experience.”

To that end, the U.K. also is seeking to restructure its procurement processes to make opportunities for innovation easier to identify.

In addition to seeking learnings on digital solutions for utilizing data, and improvements to overall system integration, the U.K. recently announced a new science innovation partnership with 31 countries, including the United States.

“We are funding collaboration between the best research institutions around the world,” Dunne said. “This will unlock and unleash a flow of talent and opportunity from other nations.”

The program, called the U.K. Science and Innovation Network, supports joint funding proposals, research papers and formal partnerships. So far, the partnership’s main accomplishments have included supporting a research collaboration between Cancer Research U.K. and the U.S. National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute; fostering vaccine development research funding granted jointly to the University of Liverpool, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; and facilitating the publication of joint research papers by the U.K. Meteorological Office and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dunne also pointed out that the U.S. market demonstrates an effective “rapid test and learn” model that the U.K. could emulate. Dunne’s team is pushing for more rapid introduction of regional initiatives so that the country can enable its own “rapid test and learn” approaches to making improvements in its health care system.

Recently, that included regionally managed mobile-application tools for processing non-urgent patient inquiries. NHS was able to evaluate how each regional solution performed in comparison with its peers in order to choose the most effective tool for national implementation.

Hayley Hovious, Nashville Health Care Council president, said it is fitting that Dunne would choose Tennessee’s capital as a place to gather learnings for the U.K.

“Nashville is a great model for methods that work and taking them to scale,” she explained.

In April, the council sponsored a trip to the U.K. with 30 delegates to learn about the health care system there. On the journey, the group met with Dunne, establishing a relationship that led to his presence on the Council panel in September.

“The Nashville Health Care Council mission recently shifted from establishing Nashville as the health care capital of the nation to making Nashville a catalyst for global collaboration for better health care everywhere,” Hovious said. The council’s U.K. trip and its event with Dunne both stem from the organization’s new, expanded mission.

Simultaneously, Great Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the European Union has allowed for a new national budget for health care policies, programs and other spending. Dunne said he is certain he’ll be returning again to Nashville in the near future.

“It’s been five years since the last visit, and I’m sure it’ll be less than five years ’til the next visit,” he said with a laugh.

And Nashville will be going back to the United Kingdom much sooner than that: The next council trade mission is slated for the last weekend of April 2018 — with the group to return, no less, on British Airways’ inaugural direct flight connecting London and Nashville.

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