Georgia Takes Center Stage at World’s Largest Health IT Conference

Last week I had the good fortune to travel to warm and sunny Orlando – not for the typical kid-friendly reasons, but for the annual Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference. HIMSS is an organization made up of healthcare providers and technology suppliers (vendors) with chapters across the nation. It was, in fact, founded at Georgia Tech in the early 1960s. The Georgia chapter won the Chapter of the Year distinction in 2013 under the leadership of Dr. Denise Hines, and continues to set an example for other chapters under its new chair, Christopher Kunney.

HIMSS is well known for putting on the largest conference in the world dedicated to health IT. This year’s recent event attracted over 37,000 people, including 200-plus exhibitors showcasing the latest and greatest in healthcare technology. That number of exhibitors makes for an amazingly long exhibit hall. I’ve heard some estimates that put it at over a mile long. Needless to say, folks wearing pedometers and activity trackers had no trouble meeting their step goals at the event.

Just one angle of state of Georgia's pavilion at HIMSS, the world's largest health IT conference

Just one angle of the state of Georgia's pavilion at HIMSS, the world's largest health IT conference

For the third year in a row, the state of Georgia – the only state to do so – has had a pavilion in the exhibit hall to showcase just a few of its many health IT companies. This year’s companies included Brightwhistle, PointClear Solutions, QTS, Velocity Medical Solutions, Patientco, Digital Assent, Automation Control Products and ACR 2 Solutions. Georgia Tech and Georgia HIMSS were also represented. (I might also add it was the place to pick up brochures on the fifth annual Health IT Leadership Summit, which will be held November 20th in Atlanta.)

I had a chance on the HIMSS show floor to talk with Carol Henderson, Director of Health Sciences and Advanced Technologies at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, about the advent and growth of the pavilion, and why it sets such an example when it comes to showcasing Georgia as the nation’s capital of health IT.

Elizabeth Jarrard (left), Account Executive at the Dalton Agency, and Carol Henderson, Director of Health Sciences and Advanced Technologies at the Georgia Department of Economic Development

Elizabeth Jarrard (left), Account Executive at the Dalton Agency, and Carol Henderson, Director of Health Sciences and Advanced Technologies at the Georgia Department of Economic Development

What prompted you to come up with the idea?
Carol Henderson: My primary role here at the Georgia Department of Economic Development is to bring new jobs and investment to Georgia. I accomplish this by supporting the development of our clusters’ ecosystem, helping our companies grow and recruiting health IT companies, which ultimately results in high-paying, quality jobs for Georgians. HIMSS offers the opportunity to showcase our industry cluster and academic institutions.

From the beginning, it’s been a two-prong strategy, showcasing the best and brightest companies and talent, and drawing potential recruitment prospects to the Georgia pavilion. This affords us the opportunity to detail the state’s health IT assets, including our advanced academic offerings that help build the talent pipeline, and our infrastructural support systems. HIMSS was also founded at Georgia Tech in the early 1960s.

How has the pavilion grown?
The pavilion has doubled in size each year. Do to limited space, we unfortunately end up turning some companies away. For this reason we work on a first-come, first-serve basis.

What does the pavilion offer participating companies they may not otherwise get exhibiting on their own?
The Georgia pavilion offers companies a turnkey trade show experience that includes booth space design and rental, conference registration and logistics, as well as added marketing value. Our companies get greater exposure due to the location of a larger space as opposed to a smaller standalone booth somewhere in the back of the exhibit floor.

What is your favorite thing about attending/exhibiting at HIMSS?
My favorite thing about HIMSS is connecting our young companies with potential strategic alliances and customers, and providing them a springboard for their growth. The best thing is all the exposure and attention we bring to Georgia, which results in companies, jobs and financial capital coming to our state.

What other benefits does Georgia realize?
Georgia benefits from marketing to those companies considering what markets they might expand in. HIMSS allows us the platform to detail all the wonderful reasons why they too should bring their companies to the nation’s Health IT capital.

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