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American Health Care Cities is a recurring feature at Health Evolution examining the health care market in different cities and regions across the country. How does the health care industry vary across this country? How does it look the same? What are the opportunities and challenges in each city? We’ll be talking with key leaders in some of the most active health care cities in America to better understand if health care, as they say, is truly local.    

Other cities covered:   

Nashville, Tennessee     

Houston, Texas   

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Rochester, Minnesota  

 

City: Indianapolis, Indiana 

Metro area population: 2.075 million  

Health care economic benefit: “Central Indiana’s health care and life sciences sector has an $84 billion annual economic impact and directly employs more than 133,000 people and 331,000 workers indirectly.” Source: BioCrossroads 

Interviewees: Patty Martin, President and CEO, BioCrossroads; Ryan Nagy, MD, President, IU Health; Brian Tabor, President, Indiana Hospital Association 

 

It’s not surprising that a city nicknamed “Naptown,” located in the notoriously modest Midwest, would be a little under the radar when it comes to its health care industry. 

“Indianapolis is not known for what we have here. We’re pretty humble. We’re Midwestern and we fly under the radar screen, literally. People fly over us. Most people that know Indianapolis just know the Indianapolis 500,” says Patty Martin, a former Eli Lilly executive and current President and CEO of BioCrossroads, an organization that serves health care and biotech companies in the region.  

But Indianapolis has more to offer than watching cars going upwards of 200 mph in a circle. From a health care perspective, the city is the home to pharma giant Eli Lilly and the American operation of Roche Diagnostics. It’s also the base of operations for insurer Anthem, the largest medical school in the country, IU School of Medicine, and the acclaimed researcher Regenstrief Institute.  

Beyond Indianapolis, the Hoosier State has three renowned research-based universities in Indiana University, Notre Dame and Purdue. The city also has Franciscan Health, which consists of a number of hospitals across Indiana. There’s also pharma companies Zimmer Biomet, headquartered in Warsaw, Catalent, which has a big location in Bloomington, and DePuy Synthes, the orthopedics company of Johnson & Johnson, also based in Warsaw.   

“Indianapolis and Indiana in general surprise people. Every time we have a conversation with a company that’s coming here…we present what we have and to a person, they say, ‘I had no idea,’” Martin says. She says one of the major reasons health care companies come to Indianapolis is the logistics factor. The central location and the second largest FedEx hub make it easy for companies to operate efficiently, she notes.  

Opportunities in collaboration  

Indianapolis’ transformation is encapsulated by IU Health’s $1.6 billion project to develop a consolidated hospital that will combine its University and Methodist Hospitals in the city’s downtown area. Ryan Nagy, President of the IU Health adult academic health center (AAHC), says that the hospital will help take IU Health well into the 21st Century. The investment is part of IU Health’s effort to develop Indianapolis as a health care hub.  

“By making this large of an investment in the location it’s going to be in, we’re trying to make Indianapolis an even better city. We don’t want it to just be a place where you live, work and play, but where the best companies in the world make an investment and know they have a world-class medical center that’s on par with the best that they can partner with,” Nagy says. “We want to help develop the metropolitan area, not just build a hospital.” 

Starting with IU Health, collaboration is a primary reason why Indianapolis has thrived as a health care market, says Brian Tabor, President of the Indiana Hospital Association. “There’s a lot of collaboration here within Indianapolis and world-class resources. You have the largest medical school in the country, which drives a lot of research and brings so many talented people in the area,” says Tabor.  

He has seen collaboration within the hospitals in his association. This mix of organizations ranging from academic medical centers to rural hospitals “operates like a health system themselves,” Tabor says. He also has seen it through the state’s health information exchange, and the partnerships between the state’s hospitals and the region’s life sciences sector, as well as with those entities and the Regenstrief Institute. “There are a lot of these assets that make it a special place when it comes to health care and innovation.” 

Martin’s own BioCrossroads organization was founded out of a sense of collaboration. She says that in 2002 when it was formed, then-CEO of Eli Lilly Sidney Taurel recognized that there was an opportunity to grow the life sciences industry within Indiana through a central convener. “Back then, there was no central coordination. It was every company doing their own thing,” Martin says. “We have been around for 20 years, focused on convening the sector to bring forward collaborative innovation.”