NC Health Tech Loses Leading Nonprofit to COVID-19 Impacts

NC Health Tech Loses Leading Nonprofit to COVID-19 Impacts

Though health tech keeps its stronghold in North Carolina (and boosts biotech job opportunities), the industry took a hit recently. On Oct. 14, the NC Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance (NCHICA) announced that it would shut down. Here’s what the NC health tech landscape will lose along with this influential nonprofit.

What was the NCHICA?

health tech nonprofit logo
Image courtesy of Fair Warning.

It had been a Durham-based nonprofit which committed itself to driving the intersection of healthcare, information technology and analytics. In short, they joined leaders in each field together, so that their respective work could improve the healthcare system through collaboration.

That collaboration had been the basis of its creation, way back in 1994. NC’s then-g0vernor James B. Hunt formed the nonprofit in Executive Order 54. Its first purpose reads: “To research, test, develop and promote the optimum application of information, telecommunication, and telemedicine technologies to health care services in all settings.” Its “optimum application” then led to hundreds of partnerships.

By 2020, the NCHICA focused on collaboration, engagement and thought leadership to accomplish that original purpose. Those strategies brought dedicated members, networking events, thought leader forums, roundtable workshops, an annual conference, and even a health-education academy.

This Health Tech Nonprofit Earned Prestigious Partners and Awards

Who did the organization have as partners? All the players in the healthcare landscape, according to its membership brochure. Its makeup especially included healthcare systems and hospitals (44% of members) and health IT companies (30%) among others.

Image courtesy of Duke University.

To name one NC healthcare entity, NCHICA had long joined with the Duke Center for Health Informatics. Its director, Dr. Ed Hammond, had high praise for NCHICA in that same brochure. “NCHICA has not only been a leader across North Carolina, but has contributed (and continues to contribute) to the nation at large.”

IT consultant firm TM Floyd & Company has also touted its membership with the NCHICA, as have education system Northwest AHEC and tech giant Harmony Healthcare IT. In total, 300 member entities had joined this network. Throughout its history, this health tech nonprofit brought in the important movers and shakers in NC healthcare.

And the NCHICA also brought in several healthcare awards along the way.

By 1999, the nonprofit (in only five years) won the Corporate Involvement Award in Washington, DC. Two years later NCHICA received the 2001 Award of Appreciation from the NC Immunization Branch.

The awards kept coming throughout the new decade. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt recognized the nonprofit as a Community Leader in 2007, and NCHICA then received a Certificate of Appreciation from North Carolina. By 2010, the organization won a Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

More awards would come through the nonprofit’s last years. Clearly, NCHICA played a strong, recognized role in transforming healthcare practices. And that’s why its 2020 closure will dent our state’s health-tech landscape.

The NCHICA Will Close Because of COVID-19 Impacts

health tech nonprofit
Jennifer Anderson.
Image courtesy of UNC Charlotte.

In a statement released Oct. 14, Executive Director Jennifer Anderson announced that the nonprofit will have to close permanently. Citing COVID-19 restrictions’ “devastating effect on NCHICA finances,” she explained that November’s roundtable meetings will be the final events.

NCHICA had to cancel its 2020 meetings, which naturally cut into funds it would’ve received. The nonprofit had already planned its 26th Annual Meeting for October 2021, likely before the final closure decision happened. To NCHICA’s members, Anderson cited its long-term successes and said, “It has been our honor to work with you.”

The loss of this influential nonprofit could cost North Carolina future healthcare innovations.

Obviously, we’ve only just heard the news. But what the NCHICA offered — intentional space for healthcare vendors, providers and other players to work together on new solutions — now won’t happen going forward. Without their collaboration on health informatics, remote device monitoring and telehealth practices, their progress likely won’t be the same. And when innovative partnerships don’t happen among thought leaders, their innovations take longer to reach you as a patient and consumer.

While you’re here, don’t forget to learn more about NC biotech and medical care. And for all your COVID-19 updates in North Carolina, why not follow our coverage of the virus and the reopening?