How Lake Nona Medical City turned from cow pasture to medical hub

The collaborative environment has allowed the VA to experiment on several initiatives, including a medical virtual reality simulation lab project with Nemours, said Dr. Graig Blevins, VA Orlando’s chief of the emergency department. This week, Nemours and the Orlando VA shared best practices on pediatric trauma with clinicians at both facilities.

Working with the UCF Lake Nona Hospital and Nemours helps the VA understand patient populations that it doesn’t interact with frequently, Blevins said.

But creating innovative medical communities doesn’t come without challenges, among them the need to recruit many employees and to put competition aside.

“There’s a process and people component to it where they really have to work well together,” said Erik Pupo, director of health IT advisory at consultant Guidehouse. “You don’t always see that in U.S. healthcare. There are a lot of locations where you look and you say ‘It’s a great location in terms of the types of hospitals,’ and then you look at how they work together and it’s not so good.”

Recruiting tech workers to any location is potentially harder after COVID-19 made many jobs virtual, said Monica Hon, vice president at consultancy Advis. “We’ve turned a corner on working virtually and that’s fortunate because we can enjoy the benefits of people working from wherever…but I also see it as a staffing challenge,” she said.

What’s next for Lake Nona Medical City?

Schlosser said one of the most appealing parts of the Lake Nona location was the potential to expand its physical presence.

“If we went to the middle of a big city like Miami, we wouldn’t have an opportunity to do that. Our campuses there are space-constrained,” Schlosser said. “This gives us a lot of green pasture where we can really build it the way we want to.”

HCA isn’t the only organization thinking about growth. For Tavistock, there are plans to scale the medical city beyond the hospitals and companies that have built a presence there.

Caulfield said Tavistock is looking to attract startups to potentially work with the hospitals and research institutions. The company operates a health tech and sports innovation accelerator in Lake Nona, she said.

“We are recruiting some of the best companies that we can find out there in the country and the world, and we surround them with support and the resources that they need to thrive,” Caulfield said.

Tavistock also runs the Lake Nona Impact Forum, a three-day event designed to bring together the brightest minds in health innovation. At this year’s event, AI-enabled preventative health company Fountain Life said it was opening a precision diagnostic center in Lake Nona.

“We want to create an identity here around medical innovation and the future of healthcare,” Caulfield said. “Some of that comes from organic growth and some of it comes through recruiting in organizations that just want to do things that are new and different.”


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