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Developing a Health IT Hub

February 25, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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The Georgia Department of Economic Development is a bit of an anomaly at this year's HIMSS conference. 
They are the only state that has a booth at the show and probably one of the only organizations whose sole purpose at the show is to promote other companies. Indeed, the Georgia Department of Economic Development's booth is comprised of other smaller companies, those who might not be able to get a booth at HIMSS because of cost reasons. 
The idea is to showcase the emerging companies in the Peach State, those who might be the "next big thing" in healthcare IT, says Carol Henderson, the director of Life, Sciences & Technology, Global Commerce at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Patientco, QTS, and PatientPad were a few of the companies at the Georgia Department of Economic Development booth. 
In a lot of ways, this represents the nonprofit's role within healthcare IT sector. Henderson says the organization works with many of these smaller companies as well as entrepreneurs who are in need of resources and opportunities. 
"Our center for innovation works with (larger) companies who have a productivity challenge and are need of an entrepreneur or a smaller company to partner with for that problem. It allows the smaller companies or entrepreneurs to get experience and exposure or just a connection to another company. We facilitate (those relationships)," Henderson says.
In that realm, she said, they collaborate with many of the universities within the state to bring them closer to the companies, who are in search of HIT talent. The organization has brought the companies and universities together to shape the curriculum to cater to those companies' staffing needs, which has become one of the biggest challenges in the state's search for continued HIT growth.
In the past few years, Georgia has made a significant mark in the Healthcare Informatics 100. In 2013, they had nine companies on the list, making them second in terms of representation to Massachusetts. In addition, Chicago-based Allscripts has significant presence in Georgia thanks to its 2010 purchase of Eclipsys. Henderson says there is a number of reasons why the state has become a hot spot for health IT companies. 
For one thing, having huge revenue generators like Allscripts, McKesson (the perennial top company in the HCI 100), and Greenway Medical, mean smaller companies want to be closer to the providers of the data, says Henderson. 
"A lot of companies are attracted to Atlanta for that reason," she said. "They are attracted to the data." This also includes corporations like AT&T and Cisco, which Henderson said, provides a good opportunity for mobile health (mHealth) companies. In the coming year, she sees great opportunity for mHealth companies in the State of Georgia. 
Since the 1996 Olympics, the City of Atlanta has had the connectivity infrastructure (bandwidth, telecommunications), she said, to support companies that operate with large volumes of data. Also, having a large airport is important from an international standpoint because HIT companies are interested getting their customers in and out. 
In the coming year, she predicts more of these smaller emerging companies, with particular niches in mHealth or data security, will either get acquired by the HIT giants or find significant work. And if the Georgia Department of Economic Development has its way, the number of companies in the HCI 100 from the Peach State will continue to rise.

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