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VU-linked Informatics Corporation expands Nashville presence amid growth
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ICA CEO Zegiestowsky

Informatics Corporation of America's growth in customers and employees has led ICA to migrate to larger quarters at the Palmer Building, at 1801 West End, with a 10th floor line-of-sight view of Vanderbilt University.

The university is a shareholder in ICA, as well as the source of much of ICA's competitive advantage in health-information technologies. ICA CEO Gary Zegiestowsky told VNC in an interview yesterday ICA will stay "proximate" to Vanderbilt, he said, because VU is the company's "innovation engine" and the medical center continues to employ and enhance technologies critical to ICA's future. ICA has exclusive rights to much of that technology.

Zegiestowsky said the move to the company's new 16,000 sq. ft. headquarters -- scheduled to be completed by February -- is necessary to accommodate a workforce that has doubled to 50 persons in the past 18 months, and which is projected to double again to 100, within the next year or so. Roughly 25 percent of ICA staff work outside the central offices.

ICA's employee growth is driven not only by the need to hire more technology staff, but also by the ramping-up of sales and customer-service workers going into 2009, a year in which Zegiestowsky said growth will become the company's business priority.

The ICA venture is driven by the nation's feverish interest in e-health, electronic medical records and related technology. The company adapts, commercializes and integrates core technology emerging from Vanderbilt, providing physicians what the company describes as tools for "accessing, evaluating and acting upon patient information across all treatment settings."

In 2009, Zegiestowsky said, ICA will probably arrive at a "tipping point," at which point it will become apparent whether the company's near-term growth will be linear or exponential.

After demonstrating its capacity to secure and satisfy its recently expanded client base, a major ICA goal will be increasing basic awareness of the company, which he said is relatively low, nationwide. In addressing that, he said ICA is beefing-up marketing, sales, public relations, the company's presence at industry events and its alliances with "core" health-information systems providers, a sector that includes McKesson, Cerner, Siemens and other giants.

Zegiestowsky said that while ICA is a candidate for top spot in the emerging informatics industry, it's far too early to make such a claim, given there are competitors dotting the landscape.

ICA will soon formally announce it has signed a contract with the Mid-South eHealth Alliance, the Memphis-based regional health information exchange that is among the first in the nation to achieve significant operational scale, with more than 40 participating institutions and about a million patients.

Zegiestowsky acknowledged ICA will eventually pursue a contract with the Nashville area's new RHIO, Middle Tennessee eHealthConnect, which has only recently been formed.

ICA has previously signed for a pilot program for Montana's statewide RHIO. ICA first customer was Bassett Healthcare, a regional system in New York State. Later came Lourdes Hospital-Paducah, part of the Catholic Healthcare Partners system. ICA also recently announced a supplier agreement with group-purchasing organization Amerinet Inc., based in St. Louis. ICA has gone from 1 client to 5 thus far this year.

Zegiestowsky noted, "Since we have a mix of hospital and HIE clients, we're not completely dependent on [one] sector." He added that hospital enterprises, provider affiliates and health-information exchanges vary in complexity, implementation challenges, numbers of decision-makers and constituencies, and time to achieve promised value-added.

Zegiestowsky declined to provide ICA revenue figures, but he noted that after being operational less than two years, 2008 revenue was twice that of 2007, with another doubling projected for 2009. The company has thus far been primarily capitalized by investments from Medcare Investment Funds, based in San Antonio.

Medcare President Tim Lyles is chairman of the ICA board of directors. Other directors include local venture-capital investor Fred Goad, founder of Voyent Partners; and, Thomas Smith, who, among numerous influential posts held during a long career, is the former CEO of VHA Inc., a group purchasing organization for community-owned healthcare systems and physicians.

Senior advisors to ICA include Harry Jacobson, M.D., CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as an investor and entrepreneur; and, Bill Stead, M.D., chairman of the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health and director of Vanderbilt's informatics center.

Zegiestowsky said he is already starting to scout for additional office space, beyond the Palmer Building, to accommodate future growth. The firm outsources some functions: some human-resources functions are performed by Cowan Benefits; and, vendor Dolphini Networks hosts some ICA technology.

ICA, founded in 2005, was originally known as Star Technologies Inc., an identity that reflected the company's reliance on similarly branded technology being developed at Vanderbilt. The name changed in 2006.

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Tags: Bill Stead, Cowan Benefits, Dolphini Networks, Fred Goad, Gary Zegiestowsky, Harry Jacobson, health information technology, healthcare, ICA, informatics, Informatics Corporation of America, MedCare Investment Funds, Mid-South eHealth Alliance, Middle Tennessee eHealthConnect, RHIO, Thomas Smith, Tim Lyles, Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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