By Neal Bradbury
If there’s anything that exemplifies the bold adoption of new medical technologies, it’s the 5’ robot buzzing the halls of Houston’s Methodist Hospital making patient rounds.
Looking like a glorified floor buffer with a flat-screen monitor for a head, the robot is controlled by a doctor in a command center in a separate wing of the hospital. The tool allows doctors to see more patients and gather more information in less time while they remain close to other technology assets that can record patient conditions and process orders for lab work and prescriptions.
A trip down the halls of most medical facilities today is filled with examples of just how far health care has come in just a few short decades. RFID tags track doctors, nurses and equipment to make emergency response quicker. Smart beds transmit patient repository and cardiac information to electronic charts that alert nurses to problems. Patients walk the halls strapped with wireless monitors that keep them safer and make medical staffs more efficient.
This proliferation of innovative medical technology has made the health care industry fertile ground for IT solution providers. Spending by global health care providers for IT services is growing at 6 percent annually and is expected to approach $31 billion this year, according to market analyses. Health care IT consulting is climbing at 9 percent per year and is the fastest-growing sub-segment in the global health care provider IT market.
Solution providers are looking at the health care space with specialized services offerings that encompass electronic medical records (EMRs) and document management, networking and mobility, security and data encryption services, advanced imaging, storage, backup and recovery, and cloud computing. Partners able to navigate the health care industry’s complex technology requirements and myriad regulatory hurdles are poised to recognize the sector’s significant financial opportunities.
One key way solution providers are able to crack the health care vertical is through judicious delivery of targeted backup and recovery services, something of which most medical facilities remain in dire need. Despite pressure on medical organizations to safeguard critical data, some 19 million patients, hospitals and practices have been affected by information loss and data breaches in the last two years.
Cloud-based backup in particular has become a natural entry point for solution providers hoping to expand into health care IT and tap this lucrative market. Cloud and backup services are already in the lexicon of most MSPs. Backup-as-a-service — whether a pure cloud service or managed service — is one of the stickiest types of protracted engagements. Backup requires constant monitoring, management, refinement and support. End users who sign up for backup services are almost guaranteed to renew and expand their utilization, which increases recurring revenue for the provider.
And thanks to the cloud, there are more avenues for solution providers to create unique services and intricate service bundles that build on backup and recovery portfolios. Cloud backup is a valuable lead sales element in MSPs’ arsenal — a solid base for upsell opportunities.
The most important effort a solution provider with designs on health care IT opportunities can make is to become acquainted with the various rules and requirements that govern the technologies employed by medical organizations.
The best known of these laws is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which dictates how sensitive patient medical records are to be handled. HIPAA not only spells out physical file-handling processes, it includes a number of technology directives including requirements for encryption on all hardware, software and medical devices handling patient information.
HIPAA has profound impact on cloud and backup services employed by health care organizations. On the plus side, HIPAA requires all health care providers, medical clearinghouses and health care facilities that electronically maintain or transmit health information to establish procedures for backup and recovery.
Solution providers can build on the relationships and organizational insights gleaned from basic HIPAA-compliant backup and recovery engagements to better position themselves to deliver high-value health care IT solutions. Backup and recovery services offer visibility into the organization to observe client medical practices, patient admissions and discharge regimens, specimen collections procedures, and imaging and billing methods. A trusted advisor looking for success in health care IT will be expected to know which hardware needs anti-microbial properties, for example, and to understand the desire among physicians and nurses for handhelds that are lightweight and easily visible in many lighting conditions. Tablets may be ruggedized and feature-rich, but they will only sell if they provide a wide range of applications, such as quick access to EMRs, medical reference libraries and lab results.
The sight of a futuristic robot quietly prowling the floors of an advanced medical center like Houston’s Methodist Hospital may make for a striking image of advancements in medical technology, but it’s important to note that the by-product of all of this innovation is a mountain of information. From the simplest cardiac monitor to the most advanced automated patient care systems, all of these devices are churning out critical data that must be stored, secured, and made available in a readily useable format at a moment’s notice.
Understanding all of these scenarios and packaging them into scalable, repeatable solutions is the long-term goal of any solution provider’s health care IT practice development. Partners need to stay abreast not only of the technology, but of changes to regulatory requirements such as the recent amendments to HIPAA’s HIPAA privacy, security and breach notification rules known collectively as the HIPAA Omnibus rule. These changes make third-party health care IT providers more responsible than ever for safeguarding patient data. Solution providers and MSPs that can address such matters with a solid backup solution that fits the bill for health care organizations are well-positioned to take advantage of this lucrative market and build a firm foundation for a health care IT practice.
Solution providers looking to make the most of the opportunity in health care should register for our upcoming Webcast, “Backup and Recovery Solutions for Health Care IT,” where I’ll be joined by Channelnomics editor Chris Gonsalves and health care IT strategist Chris Johnson of Untangled Solutions to talk about specialized BCDR requirements in health care, the impact on backup systems from EMR implementations, maintaining HIPAA compliance in data backup, and what health care IT decision-makers need in a BCDR platform and solution provider. Registrants of the webinar will also receive a new e-book titled: “Backup and Recovery in Health Care IT: The Perfect Prescription.”
Neal Bradbury is responsible for generating greater business value for the company’s MSP partner community and alliance partners. He has held many leadership roles since founding the company in 2003, including partner support, product management, and most recently operations. Neal has more than 15 years of experience in networking, security, integration, and systems management. Prior to co-founding Intronis, Neal worked at Hasbro Inc. and at General Dynamics Electric Boat, where he was a systems engineer working on combat systems of the Virginia-class submarine.
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