Panelists: Startup innovation, data optimization should be at forefront of Houston’s health, oil and gas industries

Tony Canales, president and general manager of Telemundo Houston; Mike Potter, chief technology officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Troy Villarreal, president of HCA Gulf Coast Division; and Cindy Taylor, president and CEO of Oil States International, speak at the GHP Economic Outlook Forum Dec. 5.

Tony Canales, president and general manager of Telemundo Houston; Mike Potter, chief technology officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise; Troy Villarreal, president of HCA Gulf Coast Division; and Cindy Taylor, president and CEO of Oil States International, speak at the GHP Economic Outlook Forum Dec. 5.

The health care and oil and gas industries must do a better job of innovating in Houston’s startup landscape, as well as leveraging and optimizing data to improve processes, industry leaders said in a panel session at the Greater Houston Partnership Economic Outlook Forum on Dec. 5.

Houston lags behind Austin in its status as a tech hub, and it has historically failed to attract high-tech companies such as Amazon, said Mike Potter, chief technology officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

“While we are innovative in a corporate and institutional sense—our companies are innovative, our medical [facilities] and institutions are innovative—where we’ve been lacking is more in the startup innovation space,” said GHP’s CEO Bob Harvey, who gave an introductory presentation before the panel session. “[However,] we’re really starting to see some improvements and traction in Houston in this past year.

Two examples of such efforts are the new Midtown innovation district, anchored by the former historic Sears building, as well as the TMV Innovation Institute in the Houston Medical Center, Harvey said, which promotes health care industry collaboration. The former, which was announced in April, will bring together the area’s entrepreneurial, corporate and academic communities in a collaborative space, according to Rice University, a partner in the project.

Meanwhile industries across the board have touted significant technology improvements and an increasing influx of digital data, but these strides have not necessarily translated to better use of data.

“We as a society are creating twice as much digital data every two years than has ever been created since the beginning of mankind,” Potter said. “[HPE’s] goal is to actually tap into that data, so we’re in the middle of that transition, and I think it’s very important for every single industry to understand that data and how it works and what we can actually do with that data to transform industries and technologies.”

Panelists Cindy Taylor, president and CEO of Oil States International and Troy Villarreal, president of HCA Gulf Coast Division, also discussed unique challenges that each sector faces, from attracting and retaining young professionals in the oil and gas industry to making health care both affordable for consumers and profitable for hospitals.

Oil and gas

Globally the drilling industry has heavily invested in equipment such as top drives, horizontal drilling and extended reach drilling technologies, and these efforts have paid off in drilling efficiencies—consequently benefitting Houston’s economy, Taylor said.

“When I started in this industry, on average we would drill a vertical hole both onshore and offshore maybe to 6,000-11,000 feet,” Taylor said. “Today, we may be going vertical 12,000 feet but we’re going out horizontally 14,000 feet … [and we’re] drilling these [horizontal] wells in a fraction of time that it used to take to drill a vertical well.”

However, the industry must do a better job of using real-time downhole data to optimize the drilling process, she said.

“We’ve done so good on downhole technology and engineering—we’re measuring what’s going on 2 miles below ground in extreme temperatures—but now we need to take that data and optimize it, and that is very much in its infancy,” Taylor said.

At Oil States, Taylor said she has seen a shift from customers investing strictly in engineers to hiring more data scientists. However, overall job growth won’t be significant as the industry will still have to contend with more efficient technologies doing more work, she said.

“There will be employment gains, but we can’t forget we are doing more with less,” she said. “This is not an issue unique to energy by any means. We are all talking about how do we repurpose our workforce to optimize what we have available with digital technology.”

One challenge that is unique to the oil and gas sector is attracting and retaining workforce, particularly millennials, while fighting the perception of being an anti-environment industry, Taylor said. The solution, she said, might include outsourcing from engineering firms, accepting the future workforce will be different than the past, and focusing on the positive economic impact the industry brings, even if jobs don’t have high appeal.

“It is not the sexiest industry,” she said. “We are a labor-intensive business.”

Health care

On the health care side Houston has seen many recent acquisitions and mergers, including Baylor Scott & White and Memorial Herman Health System’s merger in October, and the trend is likely to continue, Villarreal said.

“When you think about Houston, when you think about national health care, I think you’re going to see more mergers and acquisitions,” he said. “I think you’re going to see more vertical integration … [and] more technology disruptors.”

Mergers and acquisitions are an attempt to improve value for consumers at a lower cost while maintaining profitability for hospitals, which is not an easy feat, Villarreal said.

“The industry … is at the crossroads of being very altruistic—the people that get into it want to care of people—but it has to be business minded,” he said. “Houston is really seeing that happen today, we see mergers and acquisitions; ambulatory entities all going bankrupt … and health systems aligning with medical schools.”

Similar to other industries, the health care sector should also look at better ways of optimizing and sharing data, Potter said, especially if custom health tracking chips, embedded in patients, becomes a reality.

In November, HPE donated $10 million to the University of Houston’s Data Science Institute, which will help fund scholarships and equipment to enhance data science research activities, according to a UH press release. The institute focuses on addressing challenges in Houston’s health care and energy sectors, from health data-mining to data-enabled oil and gas exploration, the press release stated.

“[We’re trying] to build the kind of workforce … to take advantage of digitalization we are creating in every industry and to understand how to become more streamlined and more efficient,” Potter said. “It’s a renaissance, if you will, of the region and the different economies being able to come together and leverage that data.”
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.

<

MOST RECENT

Public schools cannot require students, teachers, parents and other staff members or visitors to wear masks after June 4, Gov. Greg Abbott declared in an executive order issued May 18. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Public schools can't require students, staff to wear masks after June 4, Gov. Abbott says

"Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities," Gov. Greg Abbott said.

George Strait will perform at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's 90th anniversary celebration next year. (Courtesy Pexels)
George Strait to close 2022 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with concert March 20

Tickets for George Strait's rodeo performance will go on sale June 24.

Effective June 26, unemployed Texans will no longer be eligible to receive the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces end-date for Texans to receive federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits

Effective June 26, unemployed Texans will no longer be eligible to receive the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

Photo of an H-E-B store
H-E-B makes curbside services free

Previously, curbside shoppers were charged a $4.95 fee on all orders, but moving forward that fee will be waived on purchases of $35 or more. Orders worth less than $35 will have a $2.95 "small basket surcharge" attached.

Each of the new locations will be available to the public to distribute and receive voter registration forms and applications to vote my mail as well as assisting with other election-related services. (Courtesy Unsplash)
Harris County elections administrator announces 8 new branch office locations

Registering to vote will soon be more convenient for Harris County residents with the opening of eight new branch office locations announced by the Harris County Elections Administrator's Office in a news release May 17.

Imperio Wine & Spirits sells a variety of liquor, beer, wine and spirits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Imperio Wine & Spirits opens in Katy; Montgomery Chick-fil-A to open dining room and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area.

The flood gauges will help monitor rainfall and stream levels in specific areas during heavy-rainfall events. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
League City installs 6 flood gauges in Clear Creek, Dickinson Bayou watersheds

Once installed and operational, data from the gauges will be published online so residents can track water levels during high-rainfall events.

The art classes are split into kindergarten through fifth graders and sixth through 12th graders. (Courtesy of University of Houston-Clear Lake)
University of Houston-Clear Lake expands offerings at Art School for Children

The school's first classes geared specifically towards children on the autism spectrum will be offered May 22 for grades K-12.