Do you groan at the idea of filling out your medical history form – again? It”s mental torture to remember your medications and what dosages you take, when your last tetanus shot was or the date of a surgical procedure decades ago. But, this is vital information, needed by all of your doctors, and omissions or incorrect information can have dire consequences for you.
Take heart. In rapid fashion, technology is transforming the way our medical information is captured, managed and shared – with Atlanta area brains, technology and, increasingly, its workforce, at the heart of this digital evolution.
Dubbed “The Nation”s Health IT Capital,”# within the past five years Atlanta has quietly emerged as a health information technology (HIT) hotbed. Seven of the top 100 health IT companies are based in Atlanta and together report almost $4 billion in revenues. Among the state”s 13,000 technology companies, nearly 250 health IT businesses operate in Georgia – a number that continues to grow.
There”s no escaping the prevalence of health IT in our day-to-day world. Just in the past decade, the adoption rate of electronic health records among providers has risen from six percent to roughly 80 percent, sparked by federal guidelines in many cases.
Health information technology is an umbrella term describing the relationship between your medical data and those needing access to it. Health IT professionals are responsible for organizing and managing health information data and its secure exchange between all users. They also need to be able to discuss patient information and discrepancies with other professionals, such as physicians and insurance personnel.
So how does health IT trickle down to benefit you, the healthcare consumer? HIT is increasingly viewed as the most promising tool for improving the overall quality, safety and efficiency of the health delivery system – positively impacting patient care. In fact, technology-enhanced coordination of health information among medical providers involved with an individual”s continuum of care is a particularly valuable incentive for those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma, for instance.
According to Steve Rushing, director of Georgia Tech”s Health at the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), “Some 80 percent of our healthcare costs go into chronic illnesses, many of which are preventable, most of which are also manageable if we use the technologies correctly and we coordinate the care in the ways we should.”#
Given that “Atlanta is among the fastest growing technology metro areas in the nation,”# it”s not surprising that health IT is a primary focus for specialized workforce training to meet highly skilled job demands from area employers. The Metro Atlanta Chamber estimates that Georgia”s HIT workforce tops 16,000, with the sector”s primary businesses growing at a 40 percent rate. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that by 2017, this sector could add between 12,000 to 50,000 new jobs.
Meeting the challenge head-on, in March, an innovative HIT education partnership between Gwinnett Technical College (GTC) and Georgia Institute of Technology launched a one-year certificate of credit program at GTC to train this leading-edge workforce. This unique collaborative effort has been designed to address a projected shortage of trained HIT professionals in health computer networking, software development, healthcare sales, customer service and support and HIT training.
Rushing sums up the net effect of what is taking place in our backyard by commenting, “We can say we have brought the technology to bear that actually made the healthcare delivery system not only more efficient, but we also eliminated the clipboard.”#