So often you hear Georgia in the headlines for being at the bottom of the list. We are in the bottom quartile as a state for public health. We have incredibly high rates of heart disease, obesity, and cancer. Twenty percent of us lack health insurance and we have significant shortages for physicians and access to healthcare (for example, we are the second worst state for providing primary care for Medicaid patients).
Frankly, I am tired of being at the bottom. I am therefore thrilled to know that we are on the other side of the coin when it comes to healthcare technology (HIT). Being an active member in the healthcare industry, I have seen the tremendous progress and success Atlanta and Georgia have achieved in the area of healthcare IT. Fellow blogger Jennifer Dennard went in detail on many of the city’s HIT successes. According to the Metro Atlanta Chamber, there are more than 225 health IT companies in the state, combining for annual revenues of $4 billion and employing 15,000 employees. McKesson Technology Solutions in Alpharetta leads the list, with other companies like MedAssets (31), HealthPort (35), Greenway (53), and Navicure (85) based in Atlanta closely following.
We continue to see growth in the sector and in Atlanta. Athenahealth, a cloud-based electronic health record, has expanded its presence in the state by creating 500 new jobs and investing $10.8 million over the next 5 years, as recently announced by the Governor. We’ve seen others reinvest in their local community like Greenway in Carrollton, Georgia, which has recently completed a $12 million expansion of its headquarters. For startups, we witnessed venture funding supporting local HIT companies (examples: $7.4 million for REACH Health and $37.9 million for CardioMEMS), which in the past have bypassed Atlanta and stayed out west.
This is all good news for Georgia. Research from the Brookings Institution showed that the our economic downturn would have been a lot worse if not for the growth in the healthcare industry. They state that, over the past decade, the healthcare industry has added 2.6 million jobs nationwide and grew by 22.7 percent over the time period (compared to only 2.1 percent for other industries). In fact, across the largest 100 metropolitan areas, the healthcare industry accounts for more than 1 in every 10 jobs. See a plethora of statistics in the Brookings’ whitepaper.
With so much changing in healthcare, new technologies and innovations are needed to support the goals of the universal access and high quality care for all Americans. Expect to see a continued push by state and local business leaders to further cultivate the HIT sector in Georgia. (As an example, HIT leaders & Metro Chamber organize a terrific annual conference held in Atlanta, this year on November 12, to explore ways to promote local companies and improve patient care through technology). Georgia and Atlanta are in the ideal position to capitalize on this movement and rightfully earn the title of “healthcare IT capital of the world.”