HP Continues Health Care Offensive With EHR Adoption Program

Hewlett Packard on Tuesday introduced a new program it says will help drive adoption of electronic health records and related technology needs for hospitals and physicians. The program, dubbed HP EHReady, will be offered 100 percent through HP partners, as part of what some of HP's top public sector and health care channel executives call an increasingly enormous opportunity for HP solution providers.

"We're on the cusp, I believe, of a very changing market," said Mike Humke, vice president, public sector for HP's Solutions Partners Organization, in an interview with CRN.com. "EHR is one piece of this. When you look at the whole ecosystem of a hospital and a physician office, you start to understand the magnitude. It's not a hardware solution."

Building off a range of health-care-related channel programs, HP has rolled out over the past year, EHReady will be targeted to hospitals and affiliated physician practices, but also health care associations and regional extension centers (RECs). HP solution providers that are Healthcare Elite certified with HP can participate.

Using the program, solution providers can tailor technology and services bundles that include HP hardware (everything from PCs and servers to scanners), software and services (including break-fix and workflow analysis), electronic medical record software from one or more of HP's ISV partners, and flexible financing -- including per-seat leasing plans -- through HP Financial Services.

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Another part of the program will involve marketing services, including custom tookits and one-on-one consulting with HP health care experts, for hospitals and their affiliated physician networks.

That's a key area for many hospitals and health-care entities, according to HP, because those entities don't often have the time or the capability to market solutions to physicians themselves.

"Affiliated physicians are responsible for a lot of revenue for a hospital, such as with lab tests and patient data," said Chris Mertens, vice president, Healthcare Business in HP's Personal Systems Group. "Hospitals are very concerned they have to bring greater value to these physicians, particularly in technology. This program brings that together, delivered by our partners. A consistent feedback has been that hospitals and physicians want to buy from local entities. That's the marriage that HP brings: the partners and the community."

Many of the recommendations for the EHReady program, Mertens said, came from HP's health care customer advisory council, which HP first formed five years ago and now numbers 20 members, from large, nationally known hospital networks to smaller regional and community hospitals.

"They want to be seen as bringing value to the physicians," Mertens explained. "Almost all of the hospitals buy from partners. One of the larger hospitals we work with has more than 8,000 affiliated physicians. They can't support them all, so they need someone who can, someone who can provide break/fix and technical recommendations or help spread the reach of the ISVs."

"You lead with an end-to-end solution, and you arm the partners to work closely with the hospital and the physician practice," Humke added.

HP won't be offering the EHReady packages through HP's own services arm, the better to avoid competition with its health care solution provider partners, Mertens said.

EHReady also won't be exclusive to individual ISVs, although HP does with whom HP also has specific programswith some of the higher-profile EHR providers such as McKesson.

"Unlike some of our competitors, we're not reselling the package and then becoming a competitor to a partner or ISV who's software we may not be selling," Mertens said.

Next: A Sizeably Healthy Opportunity, HP Says

How big is the health care opportunity for VARs?

Consider it this way, said Mertens: There are about 800,000 physicians in the U.S., and if the average physician practice has three or four back office personnel, that's at least another 2.4 million employees with technology needs.

About 50 percent of them, Mertens said, need to upgrade their hardware. Factor in services, servers and other tech upgrades needed to support EHR -- not to mention the EHR implementations themselves -- and six-figure deals get to be the rule, not the exception.

And that's where a lot of the financing comes in, Mertens explained.

"Just to do some back-of-the-napkin math: If it's a four-physician office with three or four people supporting each -- so 16-to-20 employees -- that's a lot of overall technology needs you can deliver on a fairly inexpensive cost-per-seat basis," he said. "You determine what is the monthly cost for them, versus asking them to write a check for $100,000. These are SMBs. It's very difficult for a business of that size to write that check."

According to Humke, the health care opportunity for VARs is skyrocketing, and will continue to be robust for years.

"You'll find from the software providers that they are extremely focused on this space because they see the magnitude. The one thing I think HP brings to the table is our depth and reach in the marketplace. That's the biggest strength," he said.

Think of all the services and solution possibilities that go on top of EHR -- a mere piece of the health care puzzle, Humke contends, especially when you consider content management, infrastructure and a galaxy of other technology needs those EHRs will create.

"You're going to have some partners that'll offer outsourcing capabilities," he said. "Think about the solutions and what it entails. Maybe you have a physician who all he wants to do is walk in the door and turn on the switch. This is a long-term opportunity and one that allows you to truly integrate solutions."

Jim VanderMey, CTO of Open Systems Technologies, a New York-based HP solution provider, said the key to EHReady is making EHR adoption simpler for customers.

"The program is helping hospitals that have implemented enterprise EHR applications extend the advantages of the investment into their affiliated physican practices," VanderMey said in a statement e-mailed to CRN.com.

Health care has been a major priority for HP's channel team in 2010, and Mertens and Humke said more is on the way. Recently, HP introduced its Healthcare Expressway -- an SMB channel program for health care purchasing -- and has been encouraging partners to obtain its health care elite partner certification.

Last month, Humke said, HP also hosted its first ever Healthcare Forum, with more than 90 partners in attendance.

"They are hungry for information," Humke said. "The responses we got back from partners were off the charts, and I'm not making that up."