Healthcare IT Driven By The Patient

August 20, 2014 by Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief, Business Solutions magazine

Demands for patient privacy and safety are sparking many of the IT purchases in the healthcare market.

Few, if any, markets have the IT spending potential that we see in the healthcare vertical. Indeed, many analysts believe that healthcare IT spend will reach $34.5 billion in North America this year. That’s quite a big pie! But how can you maximize your cut?

First, HIPAA and Protected Health Information (PHI) are driving many IT decisions, creating many opportunities in a variety of areas. For example, consider putting in an electronic health records (EHR) system and policies that ensure patient information is secure. How do you handle backing up that data, either on-site or off?

“Compliant backup methods are vital to ensure appropriate protection of stored personal health information required under HIPAA,” says David Maffei, VP, global channels for Carbonite. “Backup solutions need to be designed to meet privacy and security safeguards, as well as the notification requirements of HIPAA. To best serve small businesses, these solutions also need to back up an unlimited number of computers, external hard drives, NAS (network attached storage) devices, and Windows servers while ensuring compliance with critical HIPAA requirements.”

The BYOD (bring your own device) trend is something else that’s tied to the security of patient information. “Doctors are forcing hospital CIOs to support their use of smartphones and iPads for patient record and clinical systems access,” explains Doug Brown, vertical marketing manager for Honeywell Scanning and Mobility. “Nurses and clinical departments such as lab, pharmacy, and radiology are demanding similar mobile access and workflows.” He continues to say that healthcare software providers are all rushing to provide smartphone and iPad mobile versions of their classic desktop applications. “This rapid adoption of mobility is rocketing hospitals to a converged device strategy where clinicians will accomplish everything from reading the bar code on a patient’s wristband and charting patient data to calling doctors, texting team members, and managing medical device alarms, all from their smartphone.” Until hospitals roll out a formal plan and make the necessary technology investments, some of this activity is happening with employees’ own devices, unauthorized and insecurely.

Additionally, with any increase in mobile adoption, the necessary network infrastructure must be in place. “Having a wireless infrastructure, not only with the capacity to handle the increased load that goes along with increased mobile communications within a facility, but that is secure, is a big opportunity,” adds Nathan Lord, product manager for ScanSource. “Many facilities, particularly those in the community and rural space, are operating on outdated networks that will need upgrading as well.”

Second, you can’t go wrong by focusing on the patient. “Solutions that increase patient safety while reducing costs are going to continue to be a key driver for providers,” says Lord. “Being able to articulate what a solution does in these areas will be important. How are you improving patient safety [limiting potential for human error, developing a more defined process, etc.]? Where are you reducing costs [shorter prep times for greater workflow, less waste, etc.]?” Eddie Franklin, VP of sales, public sector and vertical markets for SYNNEX Corp., adds that patient access to health information has become increasingly critical and will continue to play a big role in 2014, as patients look for efficient ways to access their records.

Expand Your Line Card, But Don’t Forget Your Bread And Butter
With so much opportunity, you might be wondering where to begin. “Your biggest mistake would be to focus so much on the future that you forget to eat today,” says Honeywell’s Brown. “Classic bar code scanning in healthcare will pay your bills in 2014 and is still a multimilliondollar market.” His advice is to smartly invest in the future but sell what you have now.

Carbonite’s Maffei advises solutions providers to focus first on serving the small businesses within healthcare, such as small-practice physicians and the accounting firms that work with them, since they are the most vulnerable under the new HIPAA guidelines. “They lack the resources and need the support to remain compliant,” he says.

If you’re looking to expand your line card, don’t overlook IP video surveillance. “The global market for network video in the healthcare sector is expected to increase by 100 percent through 2017,” says Steve Surfaro, security industry liaison for Axis Communications. “Aside from improving overall situational awareness, advanced video management software makes it possible to efficiently monitor and record activities at healthcare facilities with large staffs and the continual flow of patients, visitors, and vendors that frequent these facilities 24/7,” adds Gadi Piran, president of OnSSI.

As mentioned earlier, all indicators point to a healthy (no pun intended) healthcare market full of technology opportunities. If you’re one of those solutions providers with vertical expertise, you’re in a great position not just to push your existing line card to customers, but to expand into complementary technologies and increase your revenue.

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