Commentators have been warning about the demise of healthcare investment for some time, with many arguing that substantial, previously earmarked, funds will not now be confirmed until after the general election. However, canny VARs and solution providers of various stripes appear still to be finding value in the market.
Martyn Butcher, director of public sector sales at communications VAR NextiraOne, says it is certainly not suffering from any slowdown in healthcare technology investment.
“If anything, there is a growing awareness that the right ICT investment, especially in truly integrated communications and IT encompassing clinical and administrative applications and new uses of technology such as RFID, can help drive costs down through greater efficiency and productivity,” he says.
Butcher notes that also helps improve patient services and cut waiting times. NextiraOne is also seeing growth in demand for environmental solutions, such as energy-efficient datacentres and virtualised server environments.
“If the market is tougher, it is more about making a very clear case for the investment. ICT decision-makers in healthcare want to see clearly quantifiable benefits,” Butcher says.
NextiraOne is currently reaping the rewards of a multi-year campaign for healthcare deals. More are expected to be announced in 2010.
Not all the opportunities are large or cross-institution, and official government funding schemes only represent part of the pie. Service provider CSC recently rolled out a patient e-folder, self-service kiosks, and clinical information portal targeting NHS deals outside the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
Mid-February saw Kodak finish a £50,000 deployment for Kingsley Healthcare Group of centralised document management and 35 scanners. The aim was to save money; the care home provider previously supported paper-based systems across 20 locations.
Wasantha Darshana, IT director at Kingsley, says six years ago the company only had four care homes but the company grew rapidly and needed to upgrade its IT to improve business performance and efficiency.
“Today we have 500 residents and 700 employees,” Darshana says. “Information is often required quickly during inspections, which in the past was a real hassle when everything was paper-based.”
Each care home generates reams of documentation that has to be stored, such as contracts, care plans, check lists, letters to social services, next-of-kin details, treatment records, financial information, and medical reports. Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection reports, compliance and quality assurance data as well as NHS correspondence, health and safety certificates, payroll, criminal records bureau information, and marketing materials also have to be stored and managed.
NextiraOne, Kodak, and CSC are only three channel players reaping rewards in a long list that includes Motion Computing, COA Solutions, Fujitsu, Absolute Software, Bridgehead Software, and BT. Contracts span security, storage, document management, vertical applications, audiovisual and imaging.
According to Jeremy Bonfini, senior vice president of global services at the US-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), health IT is crucial to the future of global healthcare.
“It is impossible to deliver better healthcare and improve efficiency without IT. There are many organisations that have tried to implement systems and not prospered, but the successes generally far outweigh the failures,” Bonfini says.
Bodies that got it right include the Hong Kong Health Authority, Germany’s Asklepios Kliniken, St Olav’s Hospital in Norway, and France’s Georges Pompidou Hospital, he says.
“Integrated care delivery systems have had the most success and the fastest adoption rates over all,” Bonfini says. “With chronic diseases expected to double or triple over the next 20 years, legacy healthcare systems in place will not be able to cope.”
Andy Johnston, head of product and channel marketing at Steljes, said the distributor was pushing forward into healthcare opportunities, where it believes there is definitely still money to be made.
“The main push for us at the moment is around interactive whiteboards (IWBs) and associated products,” Johnston says. “It is early days for us, but we are in a number of pilots and hoping to see this come to fruition.”
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