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Regional Report: The Future of Greater Phoenix Healthcare

New Healthcare Innovation Economy aims to transform Greater Phoenix with BBBRC funding

The New Healthcare Innovation Economy, a project among the finalists for the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge led by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), will help innovate and transform the region’s economy.

There is a massive opportunity for growth through healthcare technology within the Greater Phoenix healthcare landscape. GPEC was selected as a finalist for the BBBRC initiative in late 2021 and awarded a $500,000 grant to put toward the second phase of the challenge, which will award 20 to 30 coalitions between $25 million and $100 million.

The project includes six components that will address needs around the entire ecosystem, including partnering healthcare providers with startups and tech companies, creating more at-home care capabilities, building education and talent pipelines, and ensuring manufacturing development. To accomplish this plan, a diverse coalition of partners in the public and private sectors must align to bring the vision to life.

A group of local leaders joined GPEC’s Regional Report to discuss the project and the shifting Greater Phoenix economy. Panelists included:

  • Jasmine Bhatti, Co-Founder, Navi Nurses
  • Chris Camacho, President & CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council
  • Kate Gallego, Mayor, City of Phoenix
  • Dr. Richard Gray, CEO, Mayo Clinic Arizona
  • Kathleen Lee, Senior Vice President of Regional Initiatives, Greater Phoenix Economic Council
  • Ehsan Zaffar, Chief Difference Engineer, Arizona State University
  • Moderator: Eric Sperling, Managing Director, Social Television Network

“We have all worked together intentionally to diversify the economy and we've made the very smart bet (on) healthcare and biosciences as an area of excellence, in an area where we know it will make our residents’ lives better and create good jobs,” Gallego said. “We've made smart investments already, but with this additional workforce, we can go to the next level.”

Transformation of the Ecosystem

With medical facilities like Mayo Clinic and Banner Health throughout the region and higher educational institutions with specialties related to healthcare including Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Creighton University, infrastructure for healthcare innovation exists throughout the market.

It helped Greater Phoenix begin to shift its healthcare model during the peak of the pandemic, when online and at-home medical visits became necessary. The industry found aspects of that home-care model that could be continued and expanded upon even once COVID-19 has entered its endemic stage.

“Healthcare really needs to transform from what has been, I’ll call a pipeline model, where a person with health needs moves from one point to the next along a pretty well-defined pathway … to more of a platform model where multiple providers of healthcare services can be assembled by the person around him or her to meet their unique needs,” Gray said. “A much more patient-centered model.”

From telemedicine and remote monitoring to smart devices, digital health components that gained prominence during the pandemic are expected to continue to grow dramatically over the next decade and produce a massive industry shift that reshapes the national landscape. The New Healthcare Innovation Economy aims to place Greater Phoenix in the center of that national model.

Regional Collaboration

Revamping the healthcare industry will not only be centered around physical infrastructure and increased accessibility. The entire ecosystem must experience a shift in technology and research that allows healthcare workers to better respond to the needs of the population while forecasting the broader issues of tomorrow.

“Innovation is as fundamental to the healthcare industry as the technology sector,” Lee said.

“This economy is an ecosystem of a lot of related industries including healthcare providers, payers, medical device and tech companies, business service providers, research institutions and communities, so it’s a big ecosystem with lots of different players.”

Leaders throughout Greater Phoenix in both the private and public sectors have expressed support for the six components within the initiative. They have begun taking steps to solidify future plans to ensure the success of the New Healthcare Innovation Economy, with GPEC, cities of Phoenix and Surprise, the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation, ASU, Maricopa Community College District and Contexture as project leads.

“It’s a collaboration across all of these partners that provide care from the hospital setting to the home setting and then these outpatient clinics and every other facet of healthcare,” Bhatti said. “What we’ve realized is that the way we’ve always done healthcare, it’s just simply not working. We need to find a way to collaborate.”

These partnerships stood out to the Economic Development Administration as it considered Phase 1 proposals.

“One of the things that the EDA called out in our Phase 1 proposal is the strength that we were able to demonstrate around our regional collaboration and our public-private partnership model,” Lee said. “This is something that we can really build on in the healthcare space.”

Equity in Healthcare

As much as digital health is transforming the regional landscape, healthcare has always been about more than a traditional visit to the doctor’s office or hospital. Socioeconomics plays a massive role on health quality and lifespan, whether it’s security of home, food and transportation, effects of weather and heat, accessibility of medical help or misinformation surrounding health.

“If COVID has highlighted for the ordinary American anything, it’s the fact that these issues are integrated. They’re intersectional. It’s a system. … Healthcare does not exist in some kind of silo; it exists with all kinds of other determinants of health,” Zaffar said. “What we’re trying to build into this proposal is a systems-wide thinking, a broader thinking, of what is health. Let’s take a different definition of what we think it is.”

To drive inclusive and equitable growth around the region with the New Healthcare Innovation Economy, there must be input from different leaders around the industry. Those interested in supporting the proposal can fill out this survey.

Meet the Panel

Jasmine Bhatti
Co-Founder
Navi Nurses

Chris Camacho
President & CEO
Greater Phoenix Economic Council

Kate Gallego
Mayor
City of Phoenix

Dr. Richard Gray
CEO
Mayo Clinic Arizona

Kathleen Lee
Senior Vice President of Regional Initiatives
Greater Phoenix Economic Council

Ehsan Zaffar
Chief Difference Engineer
Arizona State University

Eric Sperling (moderator)
Founder, Managing Director
Social Television Network