Solution providers trying to break into the health-care market should approach it the way they would any new market: Focus on a niche technology, bundle it with practical, high-margin services, and market themselves as a master of that solution.
That's the message from three solution providers that have developed unique health-care solutions as remedies for an ailing economy.
Last July, Agency.com received a 300-page RFP from the Institute of Healthcare Improvement to build a Web site with a library, downloadable tools and discussion centers that enable doctors, nurses and administrators to facilitate and track improvements within a variety of different health-care environments.
Agency.com's Erik Bailey directed the development of a scalable, easy to maintain Web site for the Institute of Healthcare Improvement.
Agency.com had begun working with beta versions of Microsoft's Content Management Server 2002 and Commerce Server 2002 earlier that year. The solution provider was so impressed with the new .Net capabilities that it went ahead and developed the institute's site using beta versions of the Microsoft servers.
"For a midsize project, the entire .Net infrastructure is absolutely perfect," said Erik Bailey, the Boston-based firm's technical director.
Unlike Agency.com, which forged ahead with a new technology, JPI Data Resource, a Houston-based solution provider, relies on the LaserFiche document-imaging platform. This is a mature, stable solution that LaserFiche Document Imaging, Long Beach, Calif., has updated with seamless data-entry screens and searchable index fields, as well as built-in audit trails and security features that make the solutions HIPAA-compliant.
Jim Bergeron, CEO of JPI, which focuses on the billing end of health-care organizations, said the majority of health-care clients today demand good, old-fashioned return on investment (ROI).
JPI ties its LaserFiche solution into Microsoft SQL Server and creates a customized dashboard for each client that enables shared data entry to and from all divisions of an organization. The SQL data tables also allow JPI to create unlimited indexes with default tagging that automatically can be shared with other departments.
With the LaserFiche-based solution, Bergeron said, JPI can prove big ROI to its clients. When selling the solution, he presents a matrix that shows how a 20-person billing staff that uses his solution can save up to $400,000 a year by eradicating misfiles, decreasing paper usage, consolidating staff, improving entry times and eliminating document storage space.
The average price of a LaserFiche solution for JPI is about $36,000, Bergeron said, adding that he makes a 40 percent margin on the product and pockets 100 percent of whatever services he sells, such as implementation, customization, training and disaster recovery.
"There's so much value to the client in eliminating paper costs alone that HIPAA really hasn't instigated sales [yet]," Bergeron said. "But it is creating interest and, as it becomes more of a reality, it will help me develop more services and add other parts to the entire solution."
Extreme Integration, a 3-year-old Phoenix-based solution provider, has focused on hospitals and behavioral-health facilities with multiple locations during the past two years.
A devoted Cisco shop, Extreme has led its foray into this market with IP telephony and wireless solutions.
"We took a shotgun approach," said Sean Moore, operations manager at Extreme. "First we decided what new technologies we wanted to specialize in, then we looked at where that technology would make the most sense and would be the most beneficial. That was the health-care market."
HIPAA-compliance issues also led Extreme to create additional solutions, such as firewalls, VPNs and wireless security. Although Extreme is broadening its offerings, the solution provider doesn't stray from its niche competencies, Moore said.
"We're really focusing on what we do well," he said, adding that Extreme relies on partners to provide other types of solutions. "We go in as the specialists in a particular area instead of offering a bunch of solutions that are taped together."