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About 150 health care and business leaders joined government officials from across Arkansas on Thursday to explore innovative approaches that can improve the delivery and cost of medical services in the state.

The road ahead must involve entrepreneurs and startup companies that can increase competition, improve pricing and introduce innovations to expand access and care for patients, the group was advised.

Dr. Lynda Chin, a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a leader in using digital technology to improve health care, recommends that government officials, health care providers and businesses work together to build an "interstate superhighway" that advances patient care with the use of technology and data analytics.

"This is delivery model that a rural community should be thinking about," she said. "The infrastructure is a way to improve access -- including delivering care to points that are more convenient to the patient."

Innovative approaches to health care should be encouraged, Chin said.

"We need to lower the barriers for any new entrants to come and participate, whether it's a startup with an innovative idea or five people who don't know anything about how to connect with a major hospital," Chin said. "If we don't allow the entrepreneur or the startup to get into the game, then you're losing the opportunity to create competition. At the end of the day, the way to make health care more affordable is to create competition."

Digital technology can be used to gather data, analyze it and provide it to multiple users at remote locations -- all to the benefit of local patients. "We can deliver care at the right time and at the right place and, hopefully, at the right price," she said.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Cam Patterson said that Arkansas, as a rural state, has "medical deserts" that can be transformed through deployment of digital technologies in health care.

Technology can enhance remote monitoring of patients and can help determine who is at high risk for disease, he said. "It's about making it easier for individuals to receive the care they need when they need it," he said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who kicked off the second annual Health & Business Symposium at the Clinton Presidential Center, said it's important in Arkansas to retain a strong community health care system to support rural areas while investing in and encouraging the use of new technologies.

At same time, as technology transforms health care delivery and services, building public confidence is vital, the governor said.

"What we've got to do, and it's a little bit of a burden, is to convince people that technology adequately addresses health care needs," he said. "There's a difference between the doctor knowing it and the public knowing it."

Arkansas, the governor said, is investing in startups and promoting innovations through the HealthTech Arkansas accelerator program, which has attracted entrepreneurs from San Francisco, New York, Boston, San Diego and Seattle. "It's exciting that we're having that kind of cutting-edge technology and entrepreneurship here in Arkansas," he said.

"If we don't support those startup companies and help them succeed, then there's going to be a gap and we're going to lose those companies to other states," Hutchinson said.

Chin said that about $16 billion in venture funding was invested across more than 800 companies in the digital-health care industry from 2014-2017. With the help of entrepreneurs, health care can be expanded and reach more people with greater efficiency and effectiveness, she said.

"Technology can redefine the boundaries of care so that products and services for health care can be delivered to more places and not just a pre-specified, centralized facility," Chin said.

Wayne Miller, executive director of the Little Rock Venture Center, attended the symposium and noted that the expertise the center has developed in the financial technology sector can be carried over to work in health care. "We're taking our fintech expertise and the relationships we've developed and working on applying it to the health care industry," Miller said.

"We're happy to use that expertise to work on our wealth, but let's do it for our health as well," he said. "There's more dollars being thrown into entrepreneurship and innovation in the health care industry today than ever before."

The event was hosted by the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and sponsored by the Partnership for a Healthy Arkansas.

Business on 09/20/2019

Print Headline: Health in state is focus of forum

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