Last month, the Nashville Health Care Council (NHCC) launched its inaugural Nashville Healthcare Sessions Conference. The five-day event convened industry leaders from across the country for two days of collaborative panels, in-depth discussions, interdisciplinary problem-solving and relationship-building, followed by over 30 associated events and gatherings. With a focus on innovation, the conference was a seedbed for new ideas from every sector of the industry.
It also represented the spirit of collaboration and unified focus necessary to navigate healthcare’s environment of ongoing change, challenge and pressure. While many of those challenges are borne out of silos and technological lagging, the Nashville Healthcare Sessions Conference facilitated connection and innovation.
To review everything that took place at Sessions and unpack what comes next for the industry, Apryl Childs-Potter, NHCC president, joined the High Stakes Podcast. In this conversation, she offers her perspective on the transforming healthcare industry, as well as Nashville’s role in the middle of it all.
- In an industry with seemingly 1,000 daily headlines, AI is healthcare’s biggest news. Its uses, merits and ethics are being discussed in every hospital board room and executive suite across the nation. That’s because it’s no longer just a looming possibility…it’s already being implemented at scale by health systems.
- Historically, healthcare has been years behind in technology integration, but adoption is happening quicker than ever before. Tools are more sophisticated and user-friendly, allowing providers to accelerate at the pace of technological innovation.
- Healthcare is at a “watershed moment.” From the changing models of care delivery to value-based care to new technologies, factors are in play that have been discussed in theory for years. Now, these developments are accelerating, in large part because of creative partnerships and that spirit of collaboration among friends and putative rivals alike.
- In the midst of this change, Nashville has an opportunity to elevate as healthcare’s capital. The city breeds collaboration thanks to its artistic, musical roots, but also because of the high concentration of healthcare organizations from large systems to IT to health tech startups. To maintain its position at the top of the industry, however, it needs to channel investments toward continued growth, collaboration and talent development.
David Shifrin: I’m David Shifrin with Jarrard, and I am really excited to kick off a mini-series that we have in partnership with the Nashville Healthcare Council. We are informally calling this “Backstage Sessions” in honor of the Sessions conference that just wrapped up.
Today we are not backstage. We are at the Horse Barn, Jarrard’s headquarters, talking with Apryl Childs-Potter. Just a little peek behind the curtain, the conference has wrapped up and I have a handful more conversations that we recorded at Country Music Hall of Fame during the event with healthcare leaders from across the country. So, you all will be hearing that as we move forward, but I wanted to kick off this mini-series with Apryl to debrief on the conference and get her thoughts on what’s going on. Apryl, thanks for coming over to the barn and it’s great to see you.
[00:01:04] Apryl Childs Potter: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:05] David Shifrin: I hope you’ve had the chance to take a breath, at least one breath.
[00:01:11] Apryl Childs Potter: Yes.
[00:01:12] David Shifrin: Let’s jump in. Based on what you saw at Sessions, what was the biggest takeaway as you hosted the event and talked to everybody coming into town? What was the big thing that stood out for you?
[00:01:25] Apryl Childs Potter: Oh, gosh. We spent a lot of time hearing about the need for this conference and wanting Nashville to have this Nashville-owned finance and innovation conversation annually. I think what stood out off the top to me was the energy of everyone who attended.
There’s such a hunger for the conversation and having those discussions in the historic Country Music Hall of Fame, really getting into a deep conversation about the future of the industry. I just think the energy and the excitement stood out to me compared to other types of events that I’ve been to.
[00:02:01] David Shifrin: Do you think it was the moment in healthcare and our industry, or do you think it was the event and venue, or a combination of all the above? Why the energy?
[00:02:11] Apryl Childs Potter: I keep talking about intersections, and I think that it is because healthcare is changing so rapidly. Nashville’s healthcare ecosystem has changed so dramatically in the past three or four years. Then there’s this conversation now around innovation and artificial intelligence and technology, and all those things are happening at the same time.
I think that the intersection of those activities all being there at the same time were really part of why there was so much energy. I also think people just love being in Nashville and being part of that healthcare community when folks from outside come in and they recognize the collaborative nature, the level of leaders, the types of deep conversation we’re having here. People just get excited. I think that’s what we saw last week.
[00:02:54] David Shifrin: Let’s get into those themes.
I thought the tracks were interesting. And as you said, there was a heavy emphasis on AI, generative AI specifically. A lot of conversation around value-based care, and some good stuff on retail and partnerships. As you look back at the program as a whole and the things that were said, both from the stage and in conversations around the Hall of Fame Anything, was there anything new, different, surprising? Were there any trends or news you felt like were made for healthcare?
[00:03:24] Apryl Childs Potter: Yes. I think the biggest news in healthcare right now is AI. We know it’s in every conversation that we have. We know our leaders are talking about how to incorporate it. It’s not necessarily a surprise, but I think recognizing this moment where we’ve been in such a labor crunch for so long, and now we’re starting to have technologies that can do more than just take off administrative burden.
There are things that AI can solve that we’ve heard about for a long time, but to hear so many use cases, to hear examples of the way hospital systems and other healthcare providers are utilizing that technology already, I think that was surprising to a lot of people. We’ve talked so long about these technologies as if they’re futuristic, but they’re now.
I think hearing those examples from so many different people was really empowering. We also had just gotten news that HCA, LifePoint, others are incorporating technologies that they talked about throughout the conference that are real game changers for where the industry is going and how technology is meeting this intersection of care delivery.
That’s new in terms of how it’s happening at scale. Hearing about that firsthand at the conference was really exciting, certainly for me and I think for others who attended.
[00:04:39] David Shifrin: I asked a few of the folks that I interviewed backstage a version of this question, but it’s always easy to look at a moment, especially around a conference when there is this energy and hype and everybody’s in the same room, and we’re looking for milestones and watershed moments or whatever.
I’ve tried to be careful about overthinking it, but it did seem like there were some things that were talked about that are real and accelerating?
[00:05:08] Apryl Childs Potter: I think it’s a watershed moment. No doubt about it. I’ll tell you from the conference planning process happening over a year, there was a lot happening in AI at the beginning of our process that we put a big question mark around in our content and jokingly said, “Oh, things changed so fast. We shouldn’t try to figure out what we’re going to talk about there yet.” But, as we got closer and closer to the conference, people started making announcements, companies were starting to leverage things- technologies that we’ve been talking about very theoretically.
Suddenly, things were being implemented in our health systems, and our systems are talking about how to use them. That is going to be a game changer because we know we’re not going to have more people to solve, especially on the workforce side. We’re not going to have more people to solve some of these challenges.
We have to figure out how to integrate technology. To see those types of things happening and the types and caliber of leaders having real conversations about how you implement those types of technology tools was incredible. I think we also were looking from a place of this is already starting to happen.
Now what’s in the next frontier that’s just a very different type of conversation with these types of technologies than what we’ve heard in the past.
[00:06:15] David Shifrin: With that in mind and with things accelerating, it’s no secret that our industry does tend to lag in a lot of ways in technology. There are so many different explanations for it, but this is where we are, and we’ll just acknowledge that. I think in parallel, we have these two things of “The traditional healthcare setup,” which is fairly steady, and we have a structure, we have reimbursement, we have regulatory considerations in place, so we’ve got to be very careful about that.
You can’t just go off and try something new on a whim. At the same time, there’s a deep desire and a huge amount of time and resources going into innovation. There’s so much creativity. We heard a lot of that at Sessions.
As things really start to accelerate, how are you thinking about, or how would you advise healthcare leaders to think about moving quickly, but carefully, the need to move to innovate and the need to stay within the guardrails that we have in place?
[00:07:07] Apryl Childs Potter: Guardrails that I think… all of this changes so rapidly, like you said. It’s hard to know. My job is certainly not to consult the healthcare companies, but to hear what they’re saying and make sure we’re having the right conversations around that.
I think my answer to that would be, the industry has lagged behind. Technology has to be an ingredient to the solution to be able to move forward. Otherwise, we’re going to get even further behind. I think you’re just seeing the pace pick up. I don’t know that healthcare will necessarily move to the front of the technology adoption line, but we will see.
I predict that we’re going to see some of these technologies get integrated at a speed much faster than we’ve seen other things get integrated and adopted into the system, simply because the need is so strong now for that.
I also think once something like AI, a technology that’s that much of a game changer, enters into an industry, it’s a snowball rolling downhill. We’re moving at a faster pace probably with that than we’re used to. We’re going to see all the places where it works really well, and we’re going to continue to expand that.
[00:08:10] David Shifrin: I think somebody on one of the generative AI panels also said that in some ways the lag in healthcare is a little bit of a benefit, because we can now move faster because we don’t have in technological terms, legacy things in place.
[00:08:23] Apryl Childs Potter: I was just at another conference and this was part of the conversation, that in healthcare, at the end of the day, we didn’t move quickly on some of these innovations. We were talking about Watson and some of the other earlier AI technologies that didn’t integrate into healthcare rapidly.
So, there aren’t all the things that we need to now unlearn or undo or barriers we need to overcome about why that didn’t work and how this didn’t happen. Now the technology is in a more sophisticated place, where it can be applied to a specific situation. That means we can accelerate the pace of adopt, adopting it.
I think there is a silver lining in some cases of adopting technology. You also always want to be cautious. These are people’s lives. It’s their health. We want to make sure that technologies we’re adopting are ready and that they’re going to be useful. I do think we’re reaching a place in healthcare where that’s possible.
[00:09:10] David Shifrin: let’s shift a little bit and talk more about the event, the Nashville Healthcare Council, Nashville in the national scene. How are you thinking about the role that we, as a city and the council, play in that national conversation as a convener bringing folks together to host the national conversation?
[00:09:29] Apryl Childs Potter: I love this question, and people ask me this all the time, so I’m glad to get to clarify this. At the end of the day, the purpose of the council is really an economic development engine. We want Nashville to be the most attractive place on the planet for healthcare companies, healthcare talent, and healthcare investment.
We see things like the conference as a way to shine a spotlight from Nashville to the world. We know that because our companies might be located here, have a presence here, it doesn’t mean their walls extend, or their care doesn’t extend beyond Middle Tennessee. Our companies operate in all 50 states.
Companies here touch more patients than any other city in the country. We think that’s really important and unique about the work that we do because we are a place-based approach to that. Nashville is kind of an underlying theme of everything that the council does.
We think that makes the conference really special in a way because Nashville is such a great backdrop. It’s in the middle of the country. It’s a lot easier to get to than some of the other locations. But, there’s also a collaborative spirit here that we know started in the music industry. That’s actually why Sessions is a nod to that idea of different people, different types of artists coming together and putting together a piece of music in a collaborative spirit.
We see that in business as well. It’s part of what’s made Nashville’s healthcare industry so successful, that idea of collaboration. Part of what we want to do with this conference is spread that approach across health care. We heard over and over at this conference the way through the storm ahead and health care is through partnership through collaboration, and we think we have a really unique model for doing that.
I think one big thing, that was important in the Nashville story is that the organization was started to really elevate Nashville as a healthcare capital.
We’ve refocused that mission because we want people to think of Nashville as the healthcare city. We want to be the most attractive place in the US for talent investment and healthcare companies. That was a real ethos of the conference, how do we put the healthcare city message at the core and build everything around that for this first year?
That’s the Nashville piece of the story. But again, it’s a national story. We want the conference to be national. We want people to come here and feel that collaborative spirit, have those conversations that yield partnerships. At year one, we think that’s been really successful.
I’ve heard from numerous CEOs of healthcare companies who were here, who’ve got four or five or six meetings set up just from this one, couple day conference. And that’s what we want to see. We want to be able to generate getting business done, but we want to build that collaborative spirit that Nashville is known for.
[00:12:06] David Shifrin: As we think about building that collaborative spirit and building the event, what do we have to look forward to next year?
[00:12:11] Apryl Childs Potter: That’s a great question. We’re excited about 2024.
There will be a conference next year. We’re going to be announcing those details soon. I think the biggest thing that we’re excited about for next year is the number of people that have already reached out to us in the last couple of days, wanting to be part of it, wanting to think about how we can expand it.
The other part we talked a lot about what was happening in the Country Music Hall of Fame, but I think what was both unique and incredibly powerful about this conference was the format. We had two days of content that the council helped curate in the country music hall of fame, but there were more than 30 associated events happening all across the city.
People who came to the conference could choose their own adventure in terms of what else they wanted to interact with throughout the week. I think we’ll see the number of those types of events grow exponentially next year, and I think there’ll be a lot of focus on how we can have more deep dive conversations through those partnerships next year.
[00:13:07] David Shifrin: Great Apryl. One last question for you.
It’s a total pivot away from the conference, specifically working at Jarrard, we’re interested in communications and leadership. I have to ask you, as you’ve now been in the role for about a year, how have you taken and led this team? The conference is a perfect example because it’s such an intense detail-oriented project. But, in general, how did you get the team excited, engaged and all pushing in the same direction?
[00:13:35] Apryl Childs Potter: That’s a great question. I think that as a leader, one of the things that I pride myself on is pushing people to be exceptional, and this conference was a great carrot or goal for us as a team to really think about.
We’ve done lots of events. We’ve had lots of conversations. How do we scale that up? How do we do that? On a scale that makes Nashville really proud that we have this organization that does have a national reach in this important industry. Really focusing on helping the team understand that big goal was part one.
I think the other part was really encouraging people on the team to take on roles that were a little bit bigger than themselves. How do you think about getting people excited about doing something bigger that they’re not quite ready for? Neil de Crescenzo, who sits on our board said this recently, and I think it was a quote from his boss, that you have to sometimes focus on putting people in roles that they may be 60 percent ready for. I would say that’s something the team would probably say was a guiding force. This year we knew we were going to put on this conference. I’d personally never put on a conference before. We were about 60 percent ready to do it, but we had faith and we knew that we could do it.
We believed in ourselves and we really pushed. I think that’s just a leadership philosophy that I’ll always take with me, you can be 60 percent ready to do something. But, if you’re passionate about it, if you’re really clear about the goal and you work together, you can make that happen. We’re all excited and celebrating it now that it’s done.
The last thing I’ll say about that is we spent a lot of time talking about the conference went from the 18th through the 22nd of September. We spent a lot of time talking about what it felt like on September 23rd. So, that Saturday after the conference, we’ve pulled it off, it’s achieved, how do we feel?
And every time it got really tough. We would talk about thinking about that September 23rd feeling of this successful conference that we’ve put on, how great our city and how proud our city was, how proud our members were, how great the content was, how our sponsors were pleased, all of that, and I think that really helped us keep focused.
[00:15:37] David Shifrin: Apryl Childs-Potter Thanks so much for your time. Great to see you again. And for folks who attended Sessions, or not, look for more information, news and announcements about 2024 healthcarecouncil.com. Anyone who’s interested in learning more about Jarrard, visit jarrardinc.com Thanks.
[00:15:53] Apryl Childs Potter: Thanks.