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Partners Are Better Able to Diagnose Hospitals' IT Needs With Weeklong Tech Data Healthcare Internship

Channel partners participating in the Technology Solutions HealthPath internship program gained the insider knowledge needed to more effectively address line-of-business issues within healthcare organizations.

Bob Ruiz's conversations with healthcare organizations often began and ended with the IT department.

But the account executive with Lexington, Ky.-based SIS, No. 194 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, is now much better versed to talk everything from automating data entry for trauma nurses, to how pharmacists use electronic medical record (EMR) systems, to what security protocols are necessary for maintaining HIPAA compliance, thanks to an internship program from Tech Data Technology Solutions.

Ruiz is one of 15 solution providers participating in the Tech Data (formerly Avnet) Technology Solutions HealthPath internship program at HonorHealth in Scottsdale, Ariz. The week-long program includes dozens of activities such as in-depth conversations with hospital leaders, observation of patient care delivery, and guided tours through many departments within several hospital facilities.

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When Ruiz returns home next week, he plans to get better acquainted with line-of-business leaders within his healthcare accounts – which make up roughly half of his customer base – and discuss specific pain points. Ruiz hopes that fleshing those pain points out and identifying how technology can be better utilized to address them will lead to deeper and more meaningful department-level relationships.

"We can really help make nurses' lives easier," Ruiz told CRN. "It's an ever-growing market."

Another program participant, who didn't wish to be identified, said their company is focused on having healthcare sales leaders learn more about the business side of how a hospital operates so that they can better connect technology investment to a healthcare system's overall mission.

The participant said learning the industry lingo and business models and speaking with line-of-business leaders about their mission, vision and challenges has been an invaluable experience.

"This is ten years' worth of healthcare experience packed into a week," the participant said. "You are never normally able to see how they train nurses, or what happens in surgery, or how they manage the schedule."

Solution providers that participate in the HonorHealth internship report higher margin and growth rates double that of the industry average, according to Jim Bindon, director of vertical and technology markets for Technology Solutions. They are also far more likely to maintain their wallet share with Technology Solutions and take advantage of other programs offered by the distributor, Bindon said.

"They're able to have a conversation with their end users that they didn't have before," Bindon said. "They really understand how IT impacts basic care, and they're better able to identify opportunities."

The first HealthPath internship took place in 2008, Bindon said, with the program initially focused on teaching solution providers more about healthcare from a clinical perspective. Over the past decade, the program has evolved to focus more on how IT impacts healthcare, Bindon said, focusing specifically on emerging technologies such as cloud, security, analytics and mobility.

Each of the program's five days included at least one session with an HonorHealth official focused on IT, according to Jim Cramer, a Technology Solutions consultant and former vice president of IT operations for HonorHealth. The week included conversations with HonorHealth's current chief information officer and chief technology officer, as well as the CEOs for some of the individual hospital locations.

Regular program participants such as San Antonio-based Sirius Computer Solutions, No. 27 on the CRN SP 500, and Slough, U.K.-based Logicalis, No. 30 on the CRN SP 500, moved beyond having healthcare be a sideline business and have built a true practice around the vertical, Bindon said.

Technology Solutions also focuses on turning what solution providers learn into actionable business results through consultations with the sales, marketing and services teams of participating companies to ensure that they know how to build or strengthen their business plan based on their supplier relationships, geography, resources and capabilities, Bindon said.

Chad Wieskus, a client executive with Sirius, was impressed by how HonorHealth's reduced Emergency Department re-admissions by 90 percent through the creation of a mobile unit.

Wieskus works exclusively with healthcare accounts, and believes solution providers play a vital role in helping to design and implement data management systems that effectively communicate important information to physicians. Going forward, Wieskus said he hopes to use technology to effectively address the pain points hospitals are experiencing.

"Healthcare organizations have common challenges," Wieskus said, "and IT can address some of those challenges."

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