Georgia leads the nation with more than 225 health IT companies, many of which are located in metro Atlanta, a location ranked among the top 10 best healthcare cities and a top 10 tech talent market. Atlanta has a growing hi-tech community and, unincorporated DeKalb County is home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Georgia is the only state with a pavilion during HIMSS17, showcasing the concentration, diversity and innovation of the leaders and companies in the state's healthcare ecosystem. Thirteen thought leaders took part in speaker series held during HIMSS17, including Dee Cantrell, chief nursing officer and EVP of Informatics at CriticalKey, LLC and president of the Georgia HIMSS Board of Directors.
Cantrell — along with Kornelius Bankston, director of bioscience for the Metro Atlanta Chamber — recently took time to talk with Health IT Outcomes about health IT innovation throughout Georgia.
Q: When looking back at health IT sector growth in Atlanta and statewide over the years, what do you see as the biggest change from when you entered it now?
Cantrell: The depth and breadth of the IT companies now based in Atlanta. The growth over the years has just exploded, which is so very exciting. We are the Silicon Valley of the South with all the innovative IT companies we have in Georgia. I would even argue that we are the IT capital of the country.
Bankston: We are proud to let the world know we are the nation’s health IT capital. Not only do we have over 225 Health IT companies and employ roughly 17,000 employees, we have renowned research that is galvanizing the future of security and transmission of healthcare data. Companies like Fraudscope, which was started out of Georgia Tech by Musheer Ahmed, are developing technologies that will revolutionize the security of healthcare data.
What makes Georgia unique?
Bankston: Georgia is home to renowned global health centers like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Carter Center, The Taskforce for Global Health, and CARE. These centers, coupled with our medical teaching institutions including Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Mercer University provide a unique environment where companies and entrepreneurs can access global expertise while developing solutions to solve healthcare problems.
Q: Who was responsible for the proliferation of health IT-related industry in Georgia over the years, and who will drive growth in the future?
Cantrell: We’ve had great leadership in health IT in Georgia — the Governor, Georgia Chapter of HIMSS, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Technology Association of Georgia among others — all of us are focused on the HIT workforce and economic development. We want to grow the HIT industry and the HIT professional.
Bankston: I would not say one company or organization was responsible for the state’s health IT growth. I see several factors that led to the growth of our network of technologists paired with the healthcare professionals. One key factor would definitely be Atlanta’s diverse tech community providing their expertise to advance the digital health community. Atlanta has a very strong financial technology ecosystem. We’re now seeing solutions that were once used in financial transactions like block chain now being discussed in the digital health community.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities looking forward?
Cantrell: The speed at which technology is changing and vendors, health organizations, and health professional’s ability to adapt to such rapid change. It’s fast paced and it’s only going to get faster. You must put in your time to learn and become experienced and adept at navigating the innovation/change pace, the political nuances, and the regulatory changes.
Bankston: I’d encourage readers working in the sector to challenge the status quo in healthcare innovation and to think of creative ways to improve their jobs with better solutions and healthcare engagement.
Q: What human factors does the current health technology landscape ignore?
Cantrell: We have such a wide variation in ages and generations that creating user designs that meet this is somewhat challenging. Some of us adopted technology in our later years, some grew up with it, and some appeared to have been born with it.
Bankston: As we continue to move towards a value-based healthcare system, medical adherence and patient compliance are areas that could benefit from more digital health solutions. Creating technologies that enable compliance could lower healthcare costs for U.S. health systems.
Q: Where is the balancing point between technology and humanity in healthcare as IT adoption and use takes off?
Cantrell: I don’t think we should ever forget that, regardless of the help from technology we receive to make sure doing the right thing for patient care is easy, the technology does not take away our personal and professional accountability. The technology is only as good as the user who uses it — bad information in means bad information comes out.
Bankston: As innovators in healthcare, we have to remain mindful and present to the fact the data we are protecting, transmitting, and solutions we are providing are connected to a human.
Q: What can healthcare learn from other industries about technology transformation?
Cantrell: Perseverance is important. The other industry didn’t transform overnight and neither will healthcare. It’s a journey, not necessarily a destination.
Bankston: There are big lessons the health IT community can learn from the financial transaction community, particularly the secure exchange and speed of data exchange.
Q: How can healthcare providers most effectively implement technology today and be ready for the new technology upgrades for tomorrow?
Cantrell: Understanding that no technology is perfect nor ideal, any technology will have its bumps along the way, expecting perfection out of the box is a path full of frustration and unhappiness. However, it’s also important to keep pushing for better and better improvements! We should never be satisfied with the status quo; transformation requires change, and change comes with challenges and growth opportunities!
Bankston: Over the years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in digital health connecting underserved populations to providers enabled by health IT to improve the health of their communities. The Georgia Health Information Technology Extension Center (Georgia HITEC) at Morehouse School of Medicine has played an integral role in this type of engagement. Healthcare providers will need to continue to collect meaningful data to understand their patient populations and stay ahead of the curve in disease proliferation, prescription compliance and medical adherence.