The Health Care Hub

When hospitals and public health entities struggled to contain the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa last year, Atlanta's health care providers came together to help stop the disease's advance and treat those who had been infected.

The dire situation highlighted the many strengths of Atlanta's health scene and the seamless way the members of the community collaborate.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had teams on the ground in hard-hit areas of Africa.  Grady Hospital's Biosafety Transport Team worked to safely bring the first American stricken with Ebola back to the United States for treatment.  And Ebola patients received world-class care at Emory University Hospital.

But Atlanta's health care marketplace is known for far more than disaster response.  Many of the state's top hospitals are located in Atlanta, and they are national leaders in a number of areas.  Statewide, hospitals generate as many as 325,000 jobs and $45 billion in economic activity, according to a 2013 report from the Georgia Hospital Association.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says it's the partnership between the many different institutions and hospitals that allows Atlanta to play a key role in saving lives around the world.

"For example, CDC is working with Georgia Tech on a new microneedle patch for measles vaccination, which could make it easier to vaccinate tens of millions of children around the world," Frieden says.  "And we've partnered with Emory University on hospital training and patient care for emerging health threats."

And the region's universities are training the next generation of doctors, part of an ecosystem that's focused on providing the best treatment in the world.

Renowned Specialists 

Take a look across national rankings of hospitals and their programs, and you'll see many of the 180 providers across Georgia.  

Northside is one of Atlanta's largest health care delivery systems, employing more than 2,500 physicians and 11,000 employees at its three full-service, not-for-profit hospitals and more than 150 outpatient service locations in the Atlanta area and across the state of Georgia.

It's an organization that boasts some impressive statistics:  2 million patient visits annually; the most cancer cases diagnosed and treated in the state of Georgia; a national ranking in the top 10 percent in robotic surgery programs; and more babies delivered than at any other hospital in the United States.  Northside also provides--in a big way--for people in need.  In 2014, the system provided approximately $291.7 million in indigent and charity care.

Emory Healthcare has a dozen nationally ranked programs, as well as the Winship Cancer Institute, which serves 14,000 patients a year and has long been a leader in oncology.

"Emory always was known as a place with tremendous potential," says Dr. Walter Curran, Winship executive director.  "We've really fulfilled much of that."

Emory Healthcare has focused on bringing research advances to its patients, and over the past decade, the number of patients participating in clinical trials has increased at least threefold every year.  Through the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education, Emory Healthcare is partnering with community oncologists around the state.

Piedmont Healthcare serves nearly 2 million patients at six hospitals in Georgia, including Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, a 529-bed acute-care hospital in Buckhead that specializes in heart health, transplant services and cancer care.  It was named among "America's 100 Best" for cardiac care and coronary intervention (2016) by HealthGrades, and was ranked the top acute-care community hospital in metro Atlanta in the 2011-2012 U.S. News & World Report's "Best Hospitals" list.

Piedmont Healthcare is also the parent company of Piedmont Heart Institute, which provides integrated cardiovascular healthcare, and the Piedmont Physicians Group, with more than 245 primary care and specialty physicians in more than 70 offices throughout North Georgia.

Grady Hospital is the state's largest hospital and serves as a training center for medical students from around the state.  It also has a number of specialties, including its trauma center and burn center.  But it's known nationally for the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center, which has allowed Grady to strengthen its already renowned response to strokes.

The center is another of the key collaborations in Atlanta, a union of the Marcus Foundation, Grady Health System, Emory University, School of Medicine and many other health care providers in and around the Atlanta area.

Cutting-Edge Research

Atlanta hospitals are national leaders in another important measure:  research. The Winship Cancer Institute has dramatically increased federal funding for biodmedical research, up to $87.4 million in 2014, with $26.9 million coming from eh National Cancer Institute.  That has moved Emory from being simply well-regarded to being a national player, Curran says.

Emory partners with Grady and other hospitals on research efforts, as well as with Georgia Tech.  Atlanta also is home to the American Cancer Society, which has spent more than $4 billion to fund research around the world.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has rapidly ground its research efforts in the past decade through partnerships across the metro area.  Children's is renowned for treating children, but more research is still needed, as there remain diseases that do not have cures, says Dr. Paul Spearman, chief research officer at Children's and vice chair of research at Emory Pediatrics.

"We always start with knowledge that we provide he very best care available to kids," Spearman says.  "There are a lot of things for which we need more research to save more lives or better treat diseases."

Treating the World

While people from around the world come to Atlanta for its hospitals, Atlanta's health care community also ventures around the world to treat diseases.

The city has a wealth of public health powerhouses, including the American Cancer Society, the Carter Center and the Task Force for Global Health.  And Emory's Rollins School of Public Health is one of the top-rated such programs in the world.

Atlanta's reputation as the public health capital of the world traces back to the founding of the CDC on one floor of an office building near Emory in 1946.  Not it is the most recognized public health entity in the world.

The collaboration between the CDC, Grady and Emory traces back for years.  The CDC collaborated with Emory on its special isolation unit, and the CDC began training with Grady's Biosafety Transport Team in 2000.  When put to the test, they knew exactly how to respond.

"In today's world, a health threat anywhere is a health threat everywhere," CDC's Frieden says.  "Today, the United States is in a much better position to protect people from dangerous infectious diseases."


For more information, or to read the original article, please go here to view Delta's November 2015 Sky Magazine.