Making Georgia The Epicenter of Digital Health Innovation

Information Technology is a large field, and Georgia is quickly becoming the home to a range of tech companies from small startups to large Fortune 50 companies (or their IT divisions). It’s a field that has major impact to Georgia’s economy.

Financial Technology (or Fintech, for short) has visibility when discussing policy that affects technology companies. Over 100 fintech companies are here in Georgia. A majority of those companies reside in Georgia’s “Transaction Alley” with around 70% of financial transactions in the US passing through Georgia. This growth within fintech has spurred the development of the Georgia FinTech Academy to help develop talent locally and matching that talent to the needs of companies here in Georgia

A similar boom is occurring in Healthcare IT (or digital health). Georgia is hosts over 200 companies in the digital health sector according to a report by the Technology Association of Georgia’s Digital Health Society. It’s natural to see why Georgia, and more specifically Atlanta, are home to these companies with the headquarters of Center for Disease Control, Emory Healthcare, and other large healthcare providers based here in Georgia.

At the Digital Health Day at the Capitol last week, there was discussion of the goal to make Georgia the capital of digital health innovation. This shouldn’t be a surprise to those following Georgia politics as Governor Nathan Deal’s administration helped set the table for high tech companies, including those in the fintech and digital health sectors, to come to Georgia with Governor Brian Kemp’s administration supporting that agenda thus far. Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, who also keynoted the Digital Health Day at the Capitol luncheon, has made promoting Georgia as the “Technology Capital of the East Coast” a major part of his policy agenda in the Georgia Senate.

Lieutenant Governor Duncan spoke about Georgia’s continued support of Healthcare Technology in the state as a key way to address the healthcare access challenge in Georgia.  Chris Karabinos, TAG Digital Health Society Chair, opened the program stating:

“Collaboration between state government, medical providers, technology providers, payor, pharma and even healthcare retailers will be needed to tackle the access challenge from multiple angles. We need to find and encourage more collaboration between the various players within healthcare, technology and government to sufficiently address in scale the healthcare access issues we have in Georgia.”

Innovation is thriving in Georgia. The talent shortage on the technical side is usually discussed, but that is being addressed with the FinTech Academy. The good news is that there is a lot of overlap between sectors–some technologies, like mainframe technology, are used by multiple industries (e.g., healthcare, fintech, logistics, retail, etc.). A collaborative effort between education, industry, and advocates is being made to ensure that curriculum is being tooled to meet the needs of employers.

The technology to allow specialists to diagnose and treat disease and disorders in remote or under-served areas has arrived, and that technology is becoming cheaper to implement. The theme that came out of the discussion was adoption and leadership. The innovation is happening, but it’s the resistance to adoption that is causing a bottleneck. Hospital and practice administrators are reluctant to implement some of the new technologies due to upfront and recurring costs. Even if leadership is willing to invest in these innovations, future leadership may cut it from the budget in order to cut costs. These leaders probably aren’t just “anti-innovation” but rather looking to save a hospital or clinic in an under-served areas.

Continued collaboration between digital health companies, providers, and facilities will be important in the adoption and regular use of these new technologies. A push towards whole health, wellness, and preventative care will work to drive healthcare costs lower. That’s the theory, at least…and it makes sense: it’s easier to prevent or maintain health conditions before they create more expensive complications.

This continued collaboration can create workable solutions for people in different segments of society and different areas of our state. It’s a complex issue that won’t be solved overnight, but we are moving in the right direction.

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