Reflections on Living for Six Months in South Florida’s Healthcare Market

Having graduated from high school in Brooklyn, NY, many of my colleagues informed me that I would eventually be living in South Florida. As I took off to college, then law school, all outside of New York, I eventually landed on the West Coast for more than 32 years. It was only in the last few years that I started thinking about South Florida as my final stop. Being a healthcare lawyer since 1979, and moving to California in 1982, I appreciated many of the seemingly innovative models that were developing there, particularly from a managed care perspective, and the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and develop considerable expertise in healthcare delivery models.

After a wonderful career as a healthcare corporate and regulatory attorney with the global law firm of Latham and Watkins and after having received my Master in Biomedical Informatics, I took an early retirement to pursue my PhD in Biomedical Informatics at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) School of Medicine, accepting a National Library of Medicine post-doctoral fellowship. This pursuit took me to Portland, Oregon where the state was supposedly embarking on an innovative experiment that was termed Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs), at a time we were starting to hear more about the Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). It turns out that initially there was only one ACO in Oregon, but a number of CCOs. When I completed enough of my course work at OHSU, I became a visiting graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle. This was a highlight of my academic career as healthcare systems seem to be much more robust in the greater Seattle area, but not what I was to experience in South Florida.
Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, I had been informed about how innovative and entrepreneurial health care was there. Coming from California and working across the country on many innovative healthcare delivery models in the context of clinical integration and health information technology, I saw many of the problems that exist in our healthcare systems across the country existed there also. When I moved to Fort Lauderdale earlier this year, I was informed that Florida is 10 years behind much of the country in healthcare delivery systems. I am not sure how one determines this, but this is not what I have seen so far.
Having been with my friends at Broad and Cassel since February, I have seen streams of innovative transactions and arrangements come through the door from all over the state. After attending part of the Florida Association of Accountable Care Organizations Conference in Orlando and the Broad and Cassel Health Forum the first week of October, learning of the number of ACOs in the state, hearing about their savings and meeting many of their principals and physicians, I think that perhaps Florida by being a few years behind (if it is), has been able to skip many of the missteps in healthcare in the more developed healthcare states, by learning from those states. Every day, I keep up on what is happening in South Florida health care by reading my e-mails from Charles Felix of this publication, South Florida Hospital News and Healthcare Report. There is a steady stream of healthcare innovations reported on. We have many entrepreneurs in the healthcare space in Florida, particularly in the health information technology space and the state seems to encourage such companies to come and/or stay here.
We have providers of all types trying increasingly to work with hospitals, health plans, and ancillary entities on innovative models. Many individuals and entities are embracing value-based purchasing and payment for quality and cost-effectiveness. Increasingly, we are hearing more about data analytics and its use in healthcare. I have data analytics companies and consultants telling me all the time what they are doing and are prepared to assist individuals and entities in this transformative time.
We in Florida have a recognition about the importance of health information technology and data analytics in health care. We are most fortunate to have Dr. Monica Chiarini Tremblay, who is the Chair of the Decision Sciences and Information Systems Department in the College of Business at the Florida International University, and Dr. Jennie Lou, who is the Program Director of the Biomedical Informatics Program at Nova Southeastern University, leading robust informatics programs that are trying to educate the next generation of data analysts and informaticians to assist healthcare providers and entities in the transformation from fee-for-service to payment for quality and cost-effectiveness.
Although the jury is out (so to speak) and I do not know whether the next six months will continue to bring further positive developments, I am encouraged that we will continue to make further strides in healthcare delivery in Florida and become a model for the rest of the country, and perhaps the world. At the end of the day, we healthcare professionals are all committed to improving the health of those we serve.