HIT in the ATL: From Hotlanta to HITlanta, healthcare is booming
Recently, Healthcare Informatics released its 2013 HCI 100 list, and to no surprise for many Georgians, the state of Georgia was well represented. Currently, there are more than 200 health IT companies in Georgia and that number continues to rapidly increase. In fact, Atlanta has rightfully earned the reputation of being the Nation’s Health IT Capital.
We sat down with David Hartnett, Vice President of Bioscience & Health IT Industry Development at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and asked him to provide his thoughts on the health IT community in Atlanta.
Dodge: Atlanta is known as the Nation’s Health IT Capital. What separates Atlanta from other major cities when it comes to healthcare and healthcare IT?
Hartnett: Number one is the collaborative, communal environment, where healthcare providers are willing to work together – and are, in fact, eager to work together – with Atlanta-based companies. It’s really the nature of the South, always looking for ways to help each other, and we see that reflected strongly in our healthcare community. I would say there are five essential components that build and prove out our substantial ecosystem. We have more health IT companies than anywhere else in the nation, we have more academic programs, the leading industry trade association, HIMSS (Healthcare and Information Management Systems), was founded at Georgia Tech in 1961, so we truly have deep academic roots. In addition, we have a national lead in industry financial transactions. Fully two thirds of all electronic card transactions in the U.S. come through an Atlanta data center at some point. If you think about that, the same people who write the code and software for those transactions are the same people and talent needed to grow healthcare IT software development, so the talent is here. Along those lines, another key component is internet security and the need to protect health data, particularly electronic medical records, so that the data is encrypted and HIPAA compliant and Atlanta is a well-recognized leader in internet security development. Finally, as the world goes mobile, Atlanta is home to the leading mobility company AT&T Mobility, and is becoming the global hub for this industry. Many of the innovations and development in healthcare mobility technology will naturally come from our community.
Dodge: What changes have you seen within the Atlanta healthcare community during your tenure with the Metro Atlanta Chamber?
Hartnett: We’ve seen a significant increase in academic curriculum for the field, starting at the certification level all the way to putting feet on the street, as we call it. For example, we are helping those who may not have a healthcare background, but do have a software background, quickly come up to speed to fill the job needs in health IT. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of health IT jobs available. There has also been a significant increase in VC (venture capital) investment in health IT here. We have seen healthcare providers like Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta invest in, not only health IT infrastructure, but also medical device product commercialization. Our healthcare provider community is very close. Where in many cities you might find these providers to be natural competitors, in Atlanta our healthcare providers seek ways to collaborate and work together. A good example of that is the Georgia Health Information Exchange (GHIE), where health care providers came together, applied for and received a national grant, and are now deploying that grant money for the greater good of our community.
Dodge: What will Atlanta’s healthcare community look like in the next 5-10 years?
Harntett: We will maintain the position as the Nation’s Health IT Capital and we will see more health IT companies moving to Atlanta due to the available talent and rich talent that we have here. We will see more test beds and laboratories that prove out concepts and lead to the commercialization of leading-edge health IT solutions. That may happen in labs at Georgia Tech, for example, where some of the most cutting-edge health IT solutions are developed right here in our backyard.
Dodge: Anything else you’d like to add in regard to Atlanta’s health IT scene?
Hartnett: I want to point out that it’s rare to find a place where, not only the academic community comes together, but healthcare providers, industry leaders and economic developers are all singing off the same song sheet and welcoming the world to a particular location. That’s Atlanta. Atlanta is the place to be in health IT.
Is your company located in Atlanta or the state of Georgia? We’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’ve seen Atlanta rise to the top of the health IT charts.