• WisBusiness

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mike Harsh: Wisconsin's med tech community: Driving a brain gain in healthcare innovation


By Mike Harsh
As home to some of the nation's leading medical imaging and technology companies, Wisconsin is a leader in healthcare technology, research and development. Ranging from small start-up companies to long-established manufacturers, the state's healthcare technology sector is developing products that are improving healthcare delivery and patient lives around the world.

Recently, some of the state's most forward-thinkers in the medical technology sector met with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch to discuss the progress and challenges Wisconsin's medical technology community is experiencing. Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, as a colon cancer survivor, has a unique connection to the healthcare technology sector in Wisconsin and understands the importance of supporting public policies and partnerships that will protect the future of medical technology innovation in the state.

The tremendous amount of knowledge and talent across Wisconsin has helped establish the state as a leader in medical technology. Known as "brain gain" by both leaders in the State House and the healthcare sector, the value investment in education and medical research brings to the state's economy and job base resonates with government, industry and the public.

A few examples:
* Medical innovation and healthcare research are valuable drivers of Wisconsin's state's economy, contributing approximately 42,000 direct and indirect jobs, and nearly $9 billion to the state's economy.

* Data just released by the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance named Wisconsin one of the top five states for medical imaging jobs nationwide.

* GE Healthcare alone generates more than $10.4 million in economic activity in-state, on average, every day, and helps support more than 21,000 jobs at GE businesses and at 1,100 supplier sites across Wisconsin.

At the same time, the challenges confronting healthcare systems are numerous, and identifying ways to improve healthcare outcomes and contain healthcare costs is no easy task. Medical innovation is vital to the development of products and processes that will strengthen our healthcare system. Bold technologies are in development that hold the promise of helping physicians diagnose Alzheimer's Disease, assess the effectiveness of cancer treatment, and increasingly shift the market to more precise diagnostics that will change the way disease is diagnosed and treatments are prescribed. Combined with the power of data analytics and predictive tools that will help healthcare providers improve efficiency, technology advancements can help save lives and reduce healthcare costs.

Continued investment in medical innovation and related education is critical to advancing healthcare and competitiveness. Wisconsin is a leading example of how the medical technology industry as a whole continues to work with state and federal lawmakers to advance policies that support continued medical innovation. On the federal level, bipartisan members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation have been leaders on the Device Tax repeal and other healthcare technology issues, and they continue to fight for the interests of Wisconsin's medical device community. Within the state, a strong infrastructure of post-secondary public and private universities supports the quest for medical innovation and ensures a robust future pipeline of talented scientists, engineers, technologists and researchers.

Collaboration across Wisconsin's medical technology industry, state and federal lawmakers and academic institutions ensures that states like Wisconsin can help lead the way to the healthcare solutions of tomorrow and that the healthcare industry can transform from its current orientation of focusing on "sick care" to delivering better health care to more people more efficiently.

-- Harsh is the chief technology officer of GE Healthcare and life-long Wisconsin resident.

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