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Of all the messages integrators are hearing from physicians and CIO right now, one still resounds above the rest: "Help me."
"Getting the right hardware in there, with the right connection, with the right level of security -- the ability to access data quickly and securely -- is just not easy," said Cheryl Campbell, vice president of CGI Federal at CGI Group (2009 VAR 500 rank: 38).
"We see physicians who are just forlorn about this," said Dr. John Moonsk, CGI's Chief Medical Officer. "But it's a slow process. Look how long it took HIEs [Health Information Exchanges] to get where they are. We were talking about those 10 years ago. What we're in right now? This is 1.0."
Some integrators came to HIMSS looking different than in previous years. Both Perot Systems (2009 VAR 500 rank: 51) and Affiliated Computer Solutions (2009 VAR 500 rank: 23) have new parent companies since the past HIMSS, having been respectively acquired by Dell and Xerox.
Mark Boxer, senior vice president and group president, government health-care solutions, at ACS, said having Xerox and its R&D resources behind the integrator helps ACS grow its health-care footprint dramatically. Its services will be needed regardless of how the partisan climate in Washington continues to unfold, he argued.
"I'll take the optimistic view: we're on the cusp of great change, and HIT [health-care IT] is an important part of that change," Boxer said.
ACS' strength -- business process outsourcing -- will be a boon to health care organizations revamping their infrastructures for the paperless era, he said. ACS, now called ACS, a Xerox company, is equipped to help them immediately with that transition and let them direct dollars they'd otherwise spend on business processes to more important projects.
Boxer and Will Saunders, chief operating officer and senior vice president for ACS' Government Healthcare Solutions Business, suggested health-care business will be won and lost on how integrators manage, not just move around, the enormous volumes of enterprise data.
"People want to do business with those they trust," Saunders said. "When a lot of people enter health care for the first time, they focus on transmitting data versus using data. That's how you build an HIE and how you build ROI."
Northrop Grumman's King suggested the consolidation wave probably still has some legs, though the channel probably won't see another big-ticket buy like those by HP, Dell or Xerox in the short term.
Northrop is more concerned, she said, about competitors ramping up their health-care capabilities or new competitors coming into the vertical with enticing messages.
"Everyone wants to be in health care," she said. "We compete against a lot of the companies out there, but in different areas. It's different on the state side, versus the federal side, versus the agency side."
The competition for health-care IT dollars is only just beginning, however.