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Reform leads to re-evaluation

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IT VENDORS

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IT vendors, in particular, stand to gain from the move toward certified electronic health record technology mandated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. As part of this legislation, passed in 2009, healthcare professionals and hospitals that are successful in becoming “meaningful users” of certified electronic health record technology may be eligible for incentive payments beginning this year. By 2015, providers not actively using EHRs will be subject to financial penalties. “IT "meaningful use' requirements have been a major issue that providers are having to deal with and get ready for,” Lopez said. “Vendors and consultants that are effectively responding to those needs had a fantastic year in 2010, and that growth will spill over to 2011.” Healthcare reform is also contributing to another trend, Lopez said: physician employment by hospitals. “Because reform requires a great degree of physician-hospital integration, the connection with physicians through employment will put hospitals in a much stronger position to compete and generate more revenue,” she said. “And because of the heavy investments required to implement health IT along with the constant threat of reimbursement cuts, it's much tougher for small physician group practices to operate on their own. Many are migrating to hospitals to save themselves those business challenges and costs.” Technology company Hewlett-Packard Co. is addressing the needs of smaller physician groups with its new EHReady program, which helps hospitals provide their affiliated physicians with customized hardware and software solutions as well as services to meet meaningful use requirements. HP determined the need after meeting with more than 200 hospitals at roundtables around the country, said Chris Mertens, the company's VP-personal systems group healthcare business development. “They were concerned about where the market is headed with EMRs [electronic medical records] and the need to train, and outfit and provide for the physicians from an IT solutions perspective so that physicians don't have to focus on that—they can focus on delivery of better healthcare and services,” he said. Relationships are key when marketing to large healthcare institutions, Mertens said. “For us, it's about deeply knowing their business, their market and their pain points,” he said. Mertens highlighted the importance of customer referrals and testimonials in the healthcare industry. “Healthcare is a very small marketplace; there are no secrets out there,” he said. “Make sure you know what you're doing because referrals can play a very positive role in reaching the marketplace and talking to them about the things that you're doing in a positive way.”
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