Jun 17, 2013

Editorial: Wisconsin is well-positioned for explosion in health information technology

Excerpted from Biz Opinion
By Tom Still

Like it or not, health-care reform is here to stay. Even if the Affordable Healthcare Act was magically repealed tomorrow, the U.S. health-care system would continue to search for ways to control costs, eliminate waste and improve quality.

A major tool being applied to health care’s challenges is wider adoption of health information technologies, which collectively help patients, providers, insurers and medical practitioners as they come to grips with change.

That’s an opportunity for many businesses in Wisconsin, from the largest health-care providers to the smallest startups. Consider these developments in the last two weeks alone:

* GE Healthcare, which has about 6,000 employees in Wisconsin, announced plans to invest $2 billion worldwide over the next five years to accelerate the development of innovative software for healthcare systems and applications. Focus areas will include scheduling efficiencies, support for clinical decisions and diagnostics, elimination of waste and a variety of workflow issues.

* The Marshfield Clinic, which has about 50 clinics in Wisconsin, announced it will form Marshfield Clinic Information Services, a company that will build on nearly five decades of health information technology expertise. The clinic has used a homegrown computer-based electronic health record – called Cattails – for more than 20 years.

* At the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference and the Digital Healthcare Conference, both held in the Madison area, a dozen companies with ideas for improving health care quality, safety, access, compliance and accountability presented their business plans and met with investors and potential customers.

The anchor tenant in the state’s health IT shopping mall is Epic Systems in Verona, which continues to grow in revenues and employees. However, there are many smaller companies with bright ideas – and some of them have attracted former Epic workers. These include companies such as Nordic Consulting, Aver Informatics, BlueTree Network, Wellbe, HealthFinch, Moxe Health, KayO Technology and many more.

While the Affordable Healthcare Act has accelerated the pace of change, the movement toward smarter use of health information technologies began decades ago within organizations such as Epic, GE Healthcare and Marshfield – which means Wisconsin enjoys a strong head start.

Read the full article.