Apr 05 2017

Q&A: E. Jane Caraway on How Georgia Is Emerging as a Health IT Hub

Building a health-IT friendly environment is pushing innovation in the field and showing economic returns for the state.

Georgia is looking to take the lead in health technology and security. The state not only recently announced its decision to build the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, a $50 million state-owned cyber range in Augusta, but it has also launched a collaboration with Georgia Tech on the university’s new dedicated health IT center, Coda.

The center, which will be led by Dr. Jon Duke, Georgia Tech’s recently appointed director of health data analytics, will combine health information technology, bioscience and digital media to expand HIT expertise in this region.

Here, E. Jane Caraway, director of life sciences and corporate solutions for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, tells HealthTech how the new facilities will fit into Georgia’s aim to emerge as a leader in the health IT landscape.

HEALTHTECH: Can you begin by outlining Georgia’s approach to health IT in the area?

CARAWAY: Over the years, we have noticed that big global brands are looking to strengthen their efforts in driving healthcare innovation, and they’re choosing Georgia as the heart of their operations. Because of this, we are committed to the healthcare and life sciences industry through continuous investment in its people and resources. Alongside Georgia’s ability to attract and retain new health IT business, we also look to keep leading health IT companies that are here, competitive.

We do this by providing HIT companies with attractive business incentives, a highly skilled workforce, a pro-business environment and a logistics infrastructure necessary to remain successful in today’s economy.

HEALTHTECH: How do you go about combining HIT, bioscience and digital media?

CARAWAY: Interoperability is a concept we like to focus on in Georgia, because we want our systems and industries to be able to easily exchange data and services, and interpret that shared data.

Beyond that, our state boasts a robust talent pool from nationally ranked institutions, including Augusta University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University. When we join forces with our industry partners and academic institutions, we are able to provide companies with top-notch resources from start to finish.

HEALTHTECH: Can you outline plans for the state collaboration with Georgia Tech on Coda, its new dedicated health IT center?

CARAWAY: Coda will serve to facilitate interactions between startups, Fortune 500 companies, university affiliates, researchers and students.

One of the focuses of Coda will be educational opportunities in a variety of fields, including application data, analytics and cybersecurity. Furthermore, the strategic location in the epicenter of some of our top universities gives HIT companies looking to locate in Georgia even more access to top talent in the state.

Some of the research in the new facility will focus on the many ways to improve human health through applications of data. We welcome any opportunity to be at the forefront of research and health innovation, so it is our hope that this facility does just that.

HEALTHTECH: How will collaboration with Georgia’s new cybersecurity hub enhance health IT security as a whole?

CARAWAY: Georgia ranks third in the nation for information security, generating more than $4.7 billion in annual revenue from companies in the field. More than 115 cybersecurity firms call Georgia home, and Augusta, Ga. is now at the epicenter of cybersecurity.

Moreover, the National Security Agency/Central Security Service opened the Georgia Cryptologic Center in Augusta in 2012. The Army’s Cyber Command (ARCYBER) headquarters will move to Augusta, creating more than 4,000 new jobs by 2020. Additionally, Gov. Nathan Deal announced plans to establish a new Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta, which will advance the field of information security and develop protocol for responding to cyber threats.

Through education and innovation happening at institutes across the state, Georgia’s cybersecurity environment helps to ensure that digital records and materials remain private.

HEALTHTECH: Which health IT companies are located in Georgia, and what is their impact on the state’s economy?

CARAWAY: Georgia hosts more than 225 HIT companies in the state, including athenahealth, GE Healthcare, McKesson Technology Solutions, Navicure, Philips Healthcare and VMware AirWatch, to name a few. Of course, we see this number growing in years to come.

HIT depends on a robust IT industry. Metro Atlanta ranks in the top five U.S. markets for total bandwidth and fiber access, and two of the country’s largest fiber routes — north/south and east/west — cross in metro Atlanta.

HEALTHTECH: What can states or localities do to create their own health IT hubs?

CARAWAY: Collaboration! Collaboration! Collaboration!

Creating an environment where HIT businesses can thrive is key. There are many promising startups and small businesses that are leading HIT efforts, and we are making it a priority to nurture these companies and provide adequate resources for them to grow.

Johns-Creek-Window-Washing/Thinkstock/Darryl Sebro

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