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Tech Leader Highlights From a Healthcare 'It' City

Analysis  |  By Laura Beerman  
   October 05, 2022

Speakers from the Nashville Health Care Council Fellows Summit share insights for payers and other stakeholders.

The Nashville Health Care Council's (NHCC) Fellows Summit made a welcome return in what has long been an "it" city, known not only for its tourism and recent growth but healthcare as well. NHCC's corporate membership includes nearly 300 collaborating members that work together "to inspire global collaboration to improve health care by serving as a catalyst for leadership and innovation."

Summit attendees and speakers included NHCC Fellows, who are chosen for "an annual five-month intensive program that connects health care's brightest minds, most influential leaders and top drivers of change across the U.S."

Keynoted by former Sen. Bill Frist and Meharry Medical College president and CEO Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, the Summit's five breakout sessions highlighted critical tech and health industry intersections:

  • Shaping the Future of Healthcare
  • New Models of Care
  • AI in Healthcare
  • Private Equity and Investments
  • Leadership in Healthcare
  • Innovation and Disruption

This article focuses on the latter panel, which included key takeaways and observations about payer dynamics, with additional insights on public health data from the Keynote Morning Session, Shaping the Future of Healthcare.

Data and digital therapeutics

The Innovation and Disruption session was moderated by Marcus Whitney, founder and managing partner of Jumpstart Nova and a keynote speaker for HealthLeaders' 2022 Healthcare Workforce of the Future roundtable in February 2022. The session included two callout questions with helpful observations for payers, including self-insured employers:

  • How is your organization leading and or supporting innovation within the healthcare industry?
  • What are the things that you do not anticipate changing within the next 3-5 years for care delivery?

Kyle Wailes, CEO of physician value-based care (VBC) partner Wellvana Health, noted the importance of central warehouses that link payer claims data, provider clinical data, as well as social risk and community-based data. "Data maturity is where the EHR was 10 years ago"—i.e., far less robust in terms of use and its ability to aggregate insights for better care.

Aaron Gani, founder and CEO of virtual reality health provider BehaVR, emphasized how digital health has changed. "Most of digital health has been about enhancing healthcare service delivery. What's new is digital itself as therapy."

Highlighting digital therapeutics (DTx) and its advantages, Gani posed: "Imagine if drugs got smarter every time you took them." Two of the barriers to smarter therapy are reimbursement pathways and a willingness by payers to integrate DTx and prescription DTx (PDT) into their medical and pharmacy benefits. To aid progress, Gani asked the audience and industry at large to support the Access to Prescription Drug Therapeutics Act—introduced by the U.S. Senate in March and still in committee—that Gani noted is needed to "unlock PDT value further."

Value-based meets oncology, retail meets clinical and benefit design

From a very different corner of the industry—value-based oncology care—one panelist highlighted their approach to partnering with health plans in the emerging space.

Robin Shah, co-founder and CEO of Thyme Care, noted: “We have been able to identify the behaviors and trends that drive cost, design efficient and patient-centric interventions, and develop analyses that would show the most value to everyone involved, all while driving a better patient experience for those living with cancer.”

Thyme Care’s impact was recently highlighted in an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) abstract noting a cost savings of $429 per participant per month.

Kroger Health CMO Marc Watkins, MD rounded out the discussion from an employer and food retailer's perspective. "If you're a Kroger customer, we've been ingesting your data, with your permission for years. We're putting that into a data lake where we bring in claims data, pharmacy data … and developing a risk model." Watkins added that Kroger Health wanted to "surface" this data to providers via food scores embedded in the EHR to make food corrections before a disease starts.

Kroger Health also has a Medicare Advantage plan partnership with Elevance Health (formerly Anthem) in seven states that includes three food-related benefits:

  • Food boxes with food resource roadmaps offered through supplemental benefits
  • Dietician monitoring services via telehealth
  • A pre-loaded food card with credits ranging from $75-$100

Other panel Insights

The Keynote Morning Session, Shaping the Future of Healthcare, highlighted the importance of access, including social risk areas such as food security and children's nutrition; research populations that include more people of color; and the role of climate change: healthcare's contribution to it and how the industry will be impacted by a rising number of pathogens that emerge from environmental temperature shifts.

At the Keynote, Sen. Frist and Dr. Hildreth also discussed the intersections of data and public health.

"There is a disconnect between public health and the rest of the industry," Frist noted, adding that "data is the stepchild of public health."

Dr. Hildreth stressed that "the healthcare public sector and science cannot be supplanted by politics" and that broader change will come when more public health experts are part of the primary care team.

Laura Beerman is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.


On September 30, the Nashville Health Care Council hosted its first Fellows Summit since the pandemic.

Sen. Bill Frist and Meharry Medical College president and CEO Dr. James E.K. Hildreth keynoted the summit.

The keynote and five breakout sessions highlighted critical tech and health industry intersections ranging from data and digital therapeutics to oncology, retail, and public health.

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