Since Epic Systems was founded in a basement in 1979 with 1.5 employees, the company has grown into the recognized industry leader in electronic medical records and health care information technology. Based in Verona in Dane County, Epic employs more than 9,000 people in the region.
Epic’s growth has helped make the region a hub for health care innovation, and the company is home to dozens of health focused IT companies—including Wellbe, Nordic and RevolutionEHR—each on the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest growing private companies. “Because of Epic there are more people here per capita that understand health care,” says Mark Bakken, managing partner of HealthX Ventures, a Madison-based digital health care seed fund that invests in companies that aim to help health care systems achieve better outcomes. Health systems in the region tend to be early adopters of innovative new products.
“They stay ahead of the curve in terms of using technology to make health care better,” says Bakken, making HealthX Ventures a perfect fit for the Madison Region —and vice-versa.
“We look first and foremost for a great idea and the opportunity to make health care more efficient,” says Bakken, noting several of HealthX’s investments. Among them: Redox, which develops software that makes it easy for hospitals to talk to the outside world using technology; Ensodata, which automates the sleep scoring of patients with sleeping-related issues; Epharmix, which simplifies remote patient monitoring with automated text messages and phone calls; and Pacifica, a consumer app that teaches people techniques to help deal with stress, anxiety and depression. Bakken and his team are working alongside the local community to create a health care-focused co-working and accelerator space in Madison; one that will help entrepreneurs develop their ideas, find collaborators and get funding.
For a health care startup, “there are huge advantages to being located here,” he says, noting that having access to large, forward-thinking health systems gives local companies a big leg up. As if that isn’t enough, the benefits of being in the Madison Region extend beyond the workplace.
“Madison is a great place to live,” says Bakken, a co-founder of Nordic, the world’s largest Epic consulting firm. “It offers a lot of ‘big city things’ without the expense of a big city.”