Health care is one of the hottest opportunities out there for solution providers, but it's also a challenging vertical market that can take the unprepared VAR completely by surprise.
Solution providers that have had success selling into health care -- especially in the wake of opportunities created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) -- do so because they can "walk the walk" and "talk the talk: understand health care pain points, speak the language of the vertical, and craft solutions with stringent regulations like HIPAA firmly in mind.
"Let's face it, health care is the new gold rush," said Jill Kerr, vice president of industry development for Comptia. "VARs and managed services providers know that there's gold in those hills, ARRA assured that. However, most solutions providers i meet don't have the picks and shovels needed to mine the gold."
Kerr hosted a health care focused panel Tuesday during COMDEXvirtual, the online conference hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.
Comptia now offers a range of health care specific training options for VARs -- something solution providers say will be crucial to separating the mighty from the weak in winning health care business.
MJ Shoer, president and virtual chief technology officer of Jenaly Technology Group, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based solution provider, said building a health care practice takes about 12 months. It requires training and lots of knowledge building on the ins-and-outs of the industry, as well as plenty of investment.
"It takes at least a year to get some good traction, and a multi-year practice to refine your expertise," Shoer said.
Most solution providers don't become health care experts -- or develop fully functional health-care practices -- overnight, argued Kevin McDonald, executive vice president and director of compliance practices at Alvaka Networks, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider.
"We definitely came from an evolutionary standpoint," McDonald told COMDEXvirtual attendees, emphasizing that there are many routes to market in health care and many lucrative segments.
NEXT: No Pain, No Gain
One goal should be to become an "all-encompassing" consultant for a health care customer, McDonald added. The more solution providers know about the space and can answer technology questions related to the health care market, the more trusted a partner they become.
"The day you think you know it all is frankly the day you should quit, because you're putting yourself and your clients at risk," he said.
Kerr, Shoer and McDonald urged VARs new to the health care space to seek out as much training and information as possible. As far as the best opportunities, thanks to the switch to electronic medical records and the infrastructure needed to support them, storage, disaster recovery, security, agile networking and other tools that make that infrastructure run smoothly will all be hugely important.
"Health care has the potential to cause you a great deal of pain if you run fast into the room and don't know where you're going," McDonald said. "You need to be careful. If you go in and pretend you know what you're doing, things can get pretty ugly."
"It's going to be a little bit more complicated," added Shoer. "The onus is on the individual organization to get expertise and training the space. Recognize your strengths and build on that."
Register now to attend COMDEXvirtual or to access on-demand sessions.