Chattanooga: A Hotspot for Healthcare

By Kristyna Bronner

Known for its high-speed gigabit internet service and its growing number of technology companies, Chattanooga also boasts a robust outdoors scene and a high quality of life. Twice named Outside Magazine’s “Best Town Ever,” the Gig City not only promotes an active lifestyle for its residents, but provides them with the resources needed to maintain good health—from medical care to insurance coverage.

Chattanooga’s rapidly growing healthcare industry plays a key role in driving the region’s economy, not only through primary healthcare providers, but from recognized industry participants like Unum Group, the world’s biggest disability insurer, to startups like 3D Ops, which uses CT Scans and MRIs to build 3D printed models of organs. With the announcement of GigTank 365’s new healthcare focus, Chattanooga is poised to continue to produce healthcare startups.

The healthcare industry serves as a major source of jobs in Chattanooga: of the area’s top 15 employers, six are healthcare organizations, which together employ nearly 19,000 full- and part-time employees. In addition to Unum Group, headquartered in Chattanooga, the Scenic City boasts:

  • Erlanger Health System, the seventh biggest public health system in the country and second largest employer in the region
  • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state’s largest health insurer
  • Parkridge Health System, a network  of five Chattanooga hospitals, and part of the larger HCA system, offers a range of services from orthopedics, cardiology, behavioral health and obstetrics
  • CHI Memorial, a regional referral center with more than 3,500 associates and more than 650 affiliated physicians.

A well-established healthcare industry paired with a flourishing entrepreneurial culture has generated a growing number of healthcare startups. Taking advantage of available resources, including the INCubator, the third-largest business incubator in the country, as well as the proximity to anchor healthcare companies, more and more startups are breaking into the rapidly growing industry, combining technology and healthcare to address problems and improve processes.

3D Ops is one example of a startup company taking advantage of existing healthcare organizations in Chattanooga. The 3D printing company signed a contract with Erlanger in 2015 to explore the use of 3D models at the hospital—the first agreement of its kind. With its 3D printed models, the company aims to reduce surgery time, mitigate risk for hospitals and provide educators and medical instructors with realistic models for training.

Another Chattanooga-based startup, American Exchange, provides free health insurance enrollment services in Tennessee and around the country. American Exchange offers its services free to customers as its revenue comes from insurance companies—like Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna and more—who pay the business for every sign up. The company traces its origins to Chattanooga’s accelerator venture incubator Lamp Post Group, which provides both capital and mentorship to growing area startups.

From promoting healthy hearts to 3D printing them, Chattanooga is not only an internet hot spot, but also a hub for healthcare.

To learn more about how healthcare contributes to Chattanooga’s diverse economy or the resources available to healthcare startups, contact Charles Wood, Vice President of Economic Development at the Chattanooga Chamber.