The Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) is presenting its next Engage program on the topic of healthcare.

CED’s “Engage: Healthcare” will explore current trends driving this sector’s impact on cost decisions, employee benefit packages, as well as high-growth business opportunities.

Recent studies show that healthcare is the single largest segment of the U.S. economy. In 2003, Americans spent nearly $1.7 trillion on healthcare, according to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. By 2012, BCBS reports that healthcare costs are expected to almost double to nearly $3.1 trillion.

The 2004 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey notes that healthcare cost trend rates are three to five times the rate of the general consumer price index (CPI). Prescription drug benefit costs are increasing at a rate of about 18 percent, according to the Segal Group.

In response to these healthcare trends, CED says its next Engage will provide insight into healthcare partnering opportunities, cost cutting practices and market potential for innovative technologies and services.

“Our entrepreneurial community is unique in that we are viewed as companies as consumers and developers of healthcare products,” said CED President Monica Doss. “Engage: Healthcare Industry is designed to address these items, as well as other industry trends, that affect the high-growth economy.”

Bob Greczyn, president and CEO of BCBS of North Carolina, will provide keynote remarks at the event. Engage: Healthcare will also feature three concurrent panels with entrepreneurs, attorneys, educators, investors and healthcare industry experts.

The “Partner Management Mechanisms for Successful Healthcare Alliances” panel will feature moderator Kevin Schulman, director of the health sector management program at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business; Will Mitchell, the J. Rex Fuqua Professor of International Management at Duke; Carol Ohmstede, vice president of collaborations and planning for Trimeris; and Jon Stonehouse, VP of corporate development for EMD Pharmaceuticals

“Healthcare Marketplace Opportunities for Enterprising Entrepreneurs” includes moderator Tim Gupton, founder and partner of Hughes Pittman and Gupton; Rick Brajer, president and CEO of LipoScience; Robb Cadwallader, president and CEO of United Emergency Services; Bud Whitmeyer, chairman of Noverant and general partner with Research Triangle Ventures; and Donald Fortin, president and CEO of Versagenics Inc.

The third panel, “Cost Cutting Strategies and Implementation Pitfalls: A Company Perspective,” consists of moderator Lori Spivey, president of Financial Directions Group Inc.; Mel Asbury, VP of human resources with SpectraSite; David Curtis Smith, an attorney for the Benefits and Insurance Law Center; and Robert McKenzie, partner at Rankin McKenzie.

Engage: Healthcare will be held March 31 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The three interactive sessions at 4 PM, followed by Greczyn’s keynote address at 5 PM. The program concludes with a networking reception from 6-7 PM. The program cost is $50 for CED members and $75 for non-members.

CED Engage: www.cednc.org/engage