Florida at the Precipice of a Healthcare Revolution

An Emerging Medical Technology Epicenter


Colin Forward is the Senior Vice President for Allogy, mobile software provider for hospitals and government. Forward also serves as Executive Director for Health Innovators, a non-profit that brings together clinicians and technologists to solve problems in healthcare.

Mark Wilson likes to say that this will be the Floridian century. Wilson, CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, claims that if New York defined the 19th, and California the 20th centuries (economically speaking), the 21st century will be Florida’s.

With some of the largest hospitals in the country and a blossoming innovation community, Central Florida is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the next generation of healthcare services. The healthcare industry accounts for nearly 20{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} of the US economy, and is ripe for disruption. Healthcare organizations are under increasing political and economic pressure to modernize, while a confluence of ambitious investments, community partnerships, and raw demographics have thrust our region to the bleeding edge of healthcare innovation.

A Regional Medical City

To see these factors manifest, look no further than Lake Nona, a multi-billion dollar community in South Orlando developed by Tavistock Group, with the stated goal of creating the healthiest community in America. Native Orlandoans might hardly recognize this 7,000-acre expanse of new homes punctuated by stateof- the-art healthcare and research facilities.

“The region will never be the same again,” predicted Sesh Thakkar, Managing Director of Tavistock Group. That was back in 2010, when Lake Nona was still almost entirely cow pastures. Today it is home to UCF College of Medicine, Nemours Children’s Hospital, and the first VA hospital opened in the U.S. in 20 years.

But the rapid development of Lake Nona is only a part of the emergent healthcare ecosystem here in Central Florida. Not far north, Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center sit at the poles of downtown Orlando. FLH and ORMC are the 1st and 7th largest hospitals in the country, respectively*. Not bad for 73rd most populous city in America.

“There’s just a great deal of medical expertise across the continuum,” says Karen Tilstra, Founder of the Florida Hospital Innovation Lab (FHIL). The creative atmosphere at FHIL feels more like a Montessori classroom than a typical hospital environment, its quirky furniture surrounded by prototyping tools and dry-erase boards covered in sticky notes. Deep in the heart of the nation’s largest hospital, FHIL provides a space for clinicians, researchers, and healthcare companies to work together.

“It’s real-time, in real labs, in real operating rooms. Innovation can happen in a real, live setting,” explains Tilstra.

UCF_College_of_MedicineCollaborative Resource Ecosystems (CORE)

Meanwhile back in Lake Nona, Chris Hillier, COO of GuideWell Innovation, offers a different take on collaborative problem solving. “We saw an opportunity to be a collaborative hub for all of the innovation that could be driven through these partner institutions and set out to provide an environment that would support this,” says Hillier.

GuideWell’s Collaborative Resource Ecosystem (CoRE) spreads across the entire first floor of the new $30M, 92,000 sq ft Guidewell Innovation Center. It provides creative workspaces, high-tech theaters, and proximity to the brain trust that is Medical City. The Innovation Center also houses university labs, and hosts Healthbox, Florida’s premier health accelerator.

As Hillier says: “GuideWell Innovation is building the physical, digital, and collaborative framework designed to encourage academics, clinicians, patients, payers, employers, venture capitalists, and all other stakeholders to engage with us in our innovation journey. “

Underpinning the huge healthcare capacity in Central Florida, the new facilities, and the growing innovation ecosystem, Orlando has another important resource that puts our region at the forefront of emerging healthcare trends. The increasing demand for precision medicine, artificial intelligence, and other ‘smart’ healthcare technologies requires an extraordinary degree of technical expertise.

The Epicenter

“An important, but little-known strategic advantage of Orlando is that it is the epicenter for training and simulation, with over $5B in research spent per year in the quarter-mile Central Florida Research Park,” says Dr. David Metcalf, Senior Researcher at UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training.

According to Metcalf, of that $5B, up to $1.2B is spent on medical and health simulation and training. In addition, every branch of the military has their simulation management centralized in Orlando, giving a huge boost to medical research.

“Connecting the dots between health village, military medicine, and Lake Nona Medical City, is an important triangle in the community’s growth and economic development.”

When it comes to Wilson’s prediction about the Floridian century, there are a lot of factors at play. Our state has a resurgent space industry, and remains a global crossroads for the growing global middle class. But even based on healthcare alone, it looks like it might take us less than 100 years to prove him right.