Hewlett-Packard is going on the offensive in the health-care channel in a big way, thanks to a number of marquee partnerships around electronic medical records (EMR) and the products, services and infrastructure needed to support them.
It'll all be part of what one HP executive called a "rolling cascade" of VAR-focused programs designed to help HP VARs capture crucial health-care opportunities created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
HP on Tuesday announced an agreement with EMR application heavyweight McKesson to jointly offer bundled McKesson EMR and practice management systems with HP hardware to the channel. The bundles, which will be distributed through Tech Data, are intended for McKesson VARs and HP VARs looking to expand their health-care practices, and will see a number of new training and support programs from both vendors.
Unlike with large hospital enterprises or other large settings -- not traditionally the province of regional VARs -- HP wants to drive channel business in independent physician practices. Therefore, the bundles are targeted primarily to doctors' offices and other small and midsized health-care settings where regional VARs can make the most impact.
"It's such a huge population, and what we've seen plays absolutely to the strengths of partners and HP," said Chris Mertens, vice president of the Healthcare Business in HP's Personal Systems Group, in a Channelweb.com interview. "Physicians are looking for a local partner to be able to deliver the solutions they need in the new health-care paradigm."
Mertens said many VARs get discouraged from aggressively pursuing health care, believing that most health-care channel opportunity belongs to large systems integrators or services firms, or direct sales channels.
ARRA, the federal stimulus, has swung a lot of that opportunity in their favor, Mertens argued.Physician practices are now required to implement meaningfully useful EMR systems or risk losing out on thousands of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid incentives within a few years.
"It's a battle the partners engage in every day," Mertens said. "They may see challenging margins just because of the competitiveness of it. But the physician practice market needs to move to technology, and they have not only a carrot, but also a stick: payments to them will be reduced if they don't get that technology. The timing is right now for VARs. It might not have looked like a market that was worthwhile to VARs in the past, but that's changing, and will be seen in a big way this year, in 2011 and 2012."
Mertens estimated the size of the physician practice EMR opportunity at 600,000 businesses in the U.S. He described the partnerships between HP and McKesson and Tech Data as a "tripod," and referenced other partnerships HP's made in the health-care channel, such as it's ongoing work with application provider Cerner and direct market reseller CDW.
Those types of partnerships -- the HP machine, an EMR specialist with global reach, and an aggressive distribution pipeline -- are giving HP an advantage in health-care channel business, Mertens argued.
"We did a series of dinners with physicians and health-care providers, and what is important to them is the local touch," he said. "What kept coming back is that physicians want to buy from partners in their communities -- people they see in the supermarket, that may be patients of theirs. They don't want to necessarily buy from a Web site. Local service and support means that the value of [VAR] partners to these physicians is dead on."
Among the packages available through Tech Data are bundles of HP hardware -- networking, servers, laptops, everything -- around McKesson's Practice Partner, Lytec, MD and Medisoft EHR and practice management system brands, all of which feature Bright Note Technology, which automates the inputting of patient data for easier charting on tablets and other devices.
"The McKesson and HP relationship delivers trusted solutions together with the national reach and local support that will allow independent practices quick and affordable entry into EHRs," said David Henriksen, senior vice president and general manager of Physician Practice Solutions for McKesson, in a statement. "As stimulus deadlines grow closer, together we are striving to put physician practices at ease by providing technology options that will help them realize their vision of a safer, more efficient and more connected health-care system."
According to HP and McKesson, bundles will be preconfigured based on the size of the physician practice, and include various point-of-care solutions, too. The bundles will be sold 100 percent through reseller partners and be available through an online portal from Tech Data.
Mertens said to expect a number of announcements around HP's support and programs for the health-care channel in the next six weeks, leading up to HP's Americas Partner Conference in Las Vegas at the end of April. Many of HP's hardware brands, including its tablets, are gaining great traction in the vertical, Mertens said -- especially with the arrival of Windows 7 -- and all of its product groups, not just PSG, will be part of the health-care push.
VARs will soon see the debut of separate HP channel programs specific to health care, he said, and also a substantial outreach effort by HP to the app developer community. That, Mertens explained, will culminate in the launch of an HP-backed marketplace for health-care applications.
For more on health-care opportunity in the channel, check out Everything Channel's 10 Hot Health Care Plays for VARs.