Deal reflects hot Atlanta market for health IT

The deal sounded like many others over the course of the last two decades: One health information technology company buying another.

But when Connecture acquired a health care software company, Insurix, late last month, the transaction underscored metro Atlanta’s position as a hotbed for health IT companies.

Connecture, privately held, has been based in Atlanta since its founding in the late 1990s. It employs about 50 people in the city.

The metro area has a technology-savvy worker base, said Dan Maynard, Connecture’s president and CEO. “It’s all about the talent pool.’’

Atlanta leads the nation among metro areas in the number of health IT companies, said Dr. Mark Braunstein, a Georgia Tech professor who teaches health informatics. “The industry got started here,’’ he said. 

He said that more than 100 companies are involved in health IT in the metro Atlanta area, with total employment exceeding 10,000.

“A lot of them are smaller, private companies,’’ said Dr. Braunstein, associate director of the Health Systems Institute, a Georgia Tech/Emory University initiative. “Health care is a very fragmented industry, with lots of little niches.’’

Connecture sells software that allows insurers to put their health plan information and applications online, for brokers and consumers to shop for coverages.

The company works with leading insurers UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Aetna and Kaiser Permanente, and many Blue Cross Blue Shield plans.

Health care reform ‘’is an opportunity for us,’’ Maynard said. “We drive administrative expenses out of the health plan.’’

Connecture is marketing a software product that states can use for their insurance exchanges, which are required to be created by 2014 under health reform. The exchanges will allow small businesses and individuals to pool together in shopping for affordable health insurance.

The health information technology field will explode with health reform and the push for electronic medical records, said David Hartnett, vice president of bioscience and health IT industry development at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. “Atlanta is the nation’s health IT capital.”