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Market Profile: Health IT Leaders, and Silicon Valley, Have Their Eyes on Cleveland

February 14, 2018
by Heather Landi
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Cleveland, Ohio has long been recognized for its leading medical centers, as it has more than 60 medical centers, including three major health systems—Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth System—and hospitals such as the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. Within the broader Northeast Ohio region, there also are Western Reserve Hospital and Health System, based in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Akron-based Summa Health System, and several hospitals within the Cincinnati-based Mercy Health system, as well as a number of educational institutions involved in cutting edge medical research, namely Case Western Reserve and Cleveland State University.

Northeast Ohio also is home to a number of very successful health IT startups—Explorys, originally spun off from the Cleveland Clinic, was acquired by IBM Watson in 2015, and Cleveland-based CoverMyMeds, which started in 2008, was acquired by McKesson last January. That all adds up to a tremendous amount of healthcare and health IT-related innovation and advancement in one region of the country, and in a city that’s not even the largest city in Ohio (Columbus has that ranking).

And while the three biggest health systems in Cleveland have long been focused on medical innovation—the Cleveland Clinic launched its commercialization arm, Cleveland Clinic Innovations back in 2000—there are many indications that Cleveland is fast becoming a hotbed of healthcare innovation, and a city to watch in the health IT space.

Speaking of the Cleveland health IT market, local health IT consultant Frank Myeroff says, “I think we’re bleeding edge.” Myeroff, who is president and co-founder of Solon, Ohio-based Direct Consulting Associates, an IT consulting and staffing firm, cites growing focus and investment in the development of new healthcare technologies from both within local health systems as well as from the Cleveland business community, such as the opening of the Global Center for Health Innovation in 2014.

With the Cleveland Clinic and large health systems like UH, the market naturally attracts health technology startups and entrepreneurs, Myeroff says. “If I’m a new tech startup, I want the Cleveland Clinic to be my beta site because of the name recognition. For the health systems, they test new technology systems, and some succeed and some don’t, but it’s a competitive advantage, because if you win, you’re the first one to have that technology.”

An Increasingly Consolidated, Advanced Market

It’s no surprise that cutting-edge research and innovation within Cleveland are receiving an exceptional level of support at the Cleveland Clinic, the 10-hospital integrated health system on the leading edge in terms of clinical quality improvement, clinical integration, and IT innovation.

Cleveland also is a very consolidated healthcare market, notes Deanna Moore, vice president, corporate communications at The Center for Health Affairs, a hospital association for Northeast Ohio hospitals. “We’re a marketplace that has 46 community hospitals, across a nine-county region, and over the course of the last couple of decades, most have affiliated with UH or Cleveland Clinic,” she says.

According to many Cleveland healthcare executive leaders, in many ways consolidation has actually helped to advance the forward evolution of health IT in the region. “There has been a lot of market consolidation in this area; between Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and University Hospitals, and if draw a little bit broader and get down to Akron, there are only a small handful of integrated healthcare delivery networks. And why I think that’s important, when you think about health IT, is that when you have large integrated delivery networks the natural thing for them is to buy large EHRs (electronic health record systems) and there’s a lot in IT to make that process work well. Because it’s a mature market, the implementation, adoption and use of EHRs, and health IT more generally, is probably a little bit further along than in markets that are more fragmented, from a healthcare standpoint,” says David Kaelber, M.D., Ph.D., the chief medical informatics officer (CMIO) at MetroHealth System.

Myeroff notes that the ongoing trend of business affiliations between patient care organizations in the area results in the larger, more advanced health systems sharing technology solutions with smaller and medium-sized hospitals. “That technology is being pushed down, and many of the larger health systems also provide EHR implementations and hosting services to the organizations they have business affiliations with,” he says.

Dr. Kaelber also notes that the majority of the health systems in the Cleveland and Akron area, are “Epic shops,” meaning they partner with Verona, Wis.-based Epic for their EHR systems. “I think because there is such a large Epic EHR presence here, it really allows us to leverage the technology and also sort of the collective experience a lot of us have with the EHR, specifically the Epic EHR, to do more things,” he says.

And while the health systems and hospitals in the Cleveland area are highly competitive from a business standpoint, there is collaboration around technology initiatives, many local healthcare leaders say. “At a health IT and informatics level, we do collaborate,” Kaelber says.

“We’re fortunate that there are good healthcare IT leadership in the region, and that has helped to keep us at the forefront,” Ed Marx, Cleveland Clinic CIO, says. In fact, many seasoned health IT leaders have returned to Cleveland—Marx had served as CIO at University Hospitals earlier in his career and Robert Eardley was recently named CIO at University Hospitals, where he had previously served as associate CIO seven years ago.

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