Editor’s note: Michael Haley was named executive director of Wake County Economic Development, the primary economic development organization for Wake County, providing economic development support for its 12 municipalities, in June. As a program of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the organization proactively creates an environment in which Wake County can grow and thrive, resulting in new jobs and capital investment. WRAL TechWire asked Haley to write a blog about the Chamber’s recent Healthcare Forum and what continuing change means for the Triangle.

RALEIGH – Technology, data, and innovation are converging and leading to shifts across the healthcare industry. What does this mean for the Triangle?

The Greater Raleigh Chamber’s recent Healthcare Forum brought industry experts from QuintilesIMS, SAS, and ViiV to the stage to tackle this issue and provide insight on what’s to come.

A New Normal

As consumers, we have become accustomed to having information at our fingertips—whether it’s our favorite music, purchasing power, or a ride to dinner. It’s only natural that we want the same flexibility with healthcare. We demand choice, speed, and alternatives.

Consumers are now more involved in their own healthcare. We can actively participate with our doctors by using technology to provide data—whether we’re tracking our activity with wearables or using an app to ensure adherence to a prescription.

This new normal is impacting every healthcare business—from Fortune 500s to small businesses and startups—and it’s changing how healthcare is delivered.

Care and access are improving with the intent of driving costs down.

The Triangle’s Role as a Global Leader

The convergence of technology and healthcare in the Triangle in large part is borne out of the diversity of the regional economy. The Research Triangle Region is built on four key sectors: information technology, life sciences, cleantech, and advanced manufacturing.

Information Technology sector employs well over 75,000 people in Wake County alone. We are home to assets like the fourth largest engineering school in the country in NC State University and have been ranked as the No. 5 Tech City in the US (Cushman & Wakefield, June 2017), a Top 10 City for Tech Talent (CBRE, July 2017) and the No. 2 Hottest Spot for Tech Jobs (Forbes, September 2016).

These are the reasons why companies like SAS continue to grow and thrive, Citrix is adding another 500 jobs, Credit Suisse announced a 1,200 job expansion, and Infosys has selected Wake County for 2,000 new jobs.

We are a global leader in Life Sciences and Healthcare. We have been identified as one of the Top 3 Life Science Clusters by global real estate firm JLL (October 2016) and Business Facilities Magazine named our region as the No. 1 Metro for Life Sciences in the U.S. (August 2015). Again, strong academic assets like the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center at NC State University and two renowned medical schools at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University lead the way with additional assets like the NC Biotechnology Center supporting businesses from startups to multinationals.

To be clear however, these sectors should not be thought of as silos. Rather, there is a convergence of technologies, talents, and markets that are impacting these sectors collectively. The strengths of our technology sector are enhancing those of our healthcare sector from analytics to wearables to the Internet of Things. Our life science sector is driving new analytics tools and new technologies. This convergence becomes in essence a virtuous cycle of innovation.

Wake County and the Research Triangle are uniquely positioned to support and lead this type of convergence because of the diverse regional economy, high skilled talent, academic resources, and the startup ecosystem.

Five Things to Remember

  1. The convergence of information technology and life sciences is allowing the industry to focus more on patient outcomes.
  2. This convergence also allows consumers to more fully own their healthcare by being a greater partner in the process.
  3. The integration of technology and healthcare will also improve quality of and access to healthcare will reducing costs.
  4. Raleigh, Wake County, and the Research Triangle Region make up one of the hubs at the leading edge of this convergence of technology and life sciences.
  5. Finally, and probably most importantly, the convergence of technology and life science will continue to keep the patient and their health at the forefront.