Multi-billion-dollar boon: Fast-growing MUSC’s economic impact spreads across state

October 09, 2020
Map showing where in the state MUSC has a large economic impact
MUSC's recent purchase of four community hospitals has helped to fuel its expanding influence in South Carolina.

A new report shows the Medical University of South Carolina has an annual economic impact on the state of about $5.6 billion. MUSC Health CEO Patrick Cawley, M.D., knows where a big part of the credit lies. “MUSC Health has grown significantly in the past 18 months and this report details the growing economic impact across the entire state of South Carolina.”

In early 2019, MUSC bought four hospitals in Lancaster, Florence, Marion and Chester, creating a regional hospital network and establishing itself as a health care organization that reaches well beyond Charleston. 

Headshot of Dr. Patrick Cawley 
Dr. Patrick Cawley

Joseph Von Nessen, Ph.D., a research economist at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, led the six-month economic impact study. “MUSC maintains a unique and sizeable statewide economic footprint. Its impact in Charleston may already be well known, but it’s also important to recognize that MUSC’s economic benefits extend well beyond the borders of the Tri-county region.”

For example: “About 38,000 people in South Carolina can attribute their jobs either directly or indirectly to the activities that are going on at MUSC every day. It really shows how significant MUSC’s impact is,” Von Nessen said.

That impact comes through multiple avenues. “We see it through the patient care that MUSC provides; through education, in terms of its role in educating future health care professionals; and then, of course, through innovation and research. MUSC is doing cutting-edge research on a regular basis, and all three of those elements are core contributors to that total economic impact we see.”

Headshot of Caroline Brown 
Caroline Brown

Caroline Brown, chief external affairs officer for MUSC, said all of those avenues have ripple effects. “This study proves that MUSC is truly a statewide economic engine and makes us one of only a few South Carolina employers that have an impact this substantial.”

Von Nessen explained how that economic engine runs. “One of the ways we examine MUSC’s economic impact is to measure the extent to which MUSC relies on in-state suppliers – supporting businesses across the state.”

MUSC’s 17,000-plus employees also use their paychecks to buy things. “Employees spend their wages on a variety of local goods and services, which in turn supports local businesses,” Von Nessen said. “The combination of these secondary supply chain and household spending effects really add up.”

He also cited MUSC’s employment multiplier effect. “For every 10 jobs that are created or supported by MUSC, we see an additional 11 jobs created elsewhere in South Carolina for a total of 21.”

Another important element of MUSC’s impact is its contribution to what experts call the knowledge economy. “The knowledge economy includes any industry that requires both innovation and commercialization and relies largely on high-skilled labor.”

View of MUSC from the river. 
The majority of MUSC's impact is in the Tri-county area, but it also supports suppliers across the state in addition to its four regional hospitals.

He said regions in the U.S. that have been growing at the fastest rates over the past decade have a strong knowledge economy component. “That’s one of the areas where MUSC is a major contributor – patient care, research and development, and education all require a specialized and talented workforce, which fosters an economic environment that boosts innovation and leads to higher rates of growth than we would otherwise see.”

Brown, who led MUSC’s effort to have the study done, cited a telling statistic. “More than 56% of MUSC jobs represent workers in the knowledge economy, which speaks to the innovative power of our people and their intellectual capital. To put it simply, the report proves that MUSC is the foundation of the knowledge economy in South Carolina.

The report also found that the average annual wage for MUSC employees is about $71,000, compared to a statewide average of $43,210 – about 50% higher.

And Von Nessen said MUSC is on track to continue to grow, thanks in part to the “graying of America.” “South Carolina is a popular retirement destination because we have a low cost of living and a large number of natural amenities that draw people here. As a result, the state is aging faster than the nation. That’s going to require, over time, additional health care resources to address the needs of the population.”

In the meantime, Brown said the study will be used to educate employees, students, communities, partners and others about the economic impact MUSC has on the state. “The report demonstrates the importance of ensuring our health care and life science industry continue to grow and thrive. Finally, it will ensure that we stay focused on continuing to increase our scale, scope and impact as an organization.”

About the Author

Helen Adams

Keywords: MUSC Leadership