The North American healthcare IT market is set to grow by $10 billion by 2017, according to a late 2013 Research and Markets report, and for VARs with strong network expertise, the healthcare networking opportunities will be particularly important. Not every opportunity is created equal, of course. Here are five questions you should ask to uncover the best opportunities for your business.
1. How far have you adopted Electronic Medical Records (EMR)?
Technology has drastically changed the healthcare delivery model in recent years, and EMR is one of the main reasons why. Electronic record-keeping is now a given at many organizations and critical to new innovations like health information exchanges and telemedicine. However, EMR and the digitization of health data create new demands for healthcare organizations' networks. To comply with regulations like HIPAA and HITECH, organizations will need to make sure their security infrastructures are up to scratch. Meanwhile, ensuring the availability and integrity of EMR will demand fast, reliable networks. Gauging an organization's EMR strategy is an excellent barometer to measure healthcare networking opportunities.
2. What medically connected devices are you utilizing, and how many more do you anticipate adding?
The Internet of Things (IoT)—the growing proliferation of "smart" connected devices capable of acting as sensors and transmitting data across the network for storage and analysis—is changing networking. Within the healthcare industry, IoT is particularly relevant given the usefulness of smart medical devices. The increased data traffic those devices create and their need to communicate with EMR will increase pressure on organizations' networks. Speed, reliability, security, and interoperability will be key. Simply put, the more smart devices an organization uses or plans to use, the better the healthcare networking opportunities for a networking-savvy VAR.
3. How many campuses do they have, and what kind of guest access do they want?
Behind EMR and IoT connectivity lies the simple need for networks that work, across all campuses. Expertise in WAN design and related technologies like WAN optimization and WAN acceleration will give you an advantage when dealing with large, distributed healthcare organizations. Additionally, on campus LANs, amenities like wireless and guest access are now often expected. WLANs and guest Wi-Fi access challenges present strong healthcare networking opportunities for VARs well-versed in wireless architecture and the creation of segmented or virtual WLAN topologies.
4. What's the status of the networking budget?
Now it's down to business. The dreams of a healthcare organization's IT department don't mean much without the organization's resources and support to back it up. As with any other sales opportunity, qualify your healthcare networking opportunities by asking whether their proposed projects already have funding and what the project's priority level is for the board. You don't want to get started on a major project only to see it fall through due to unexpected budget constraints or lack of board investment.
As you can see, healthcare networking opportunities abound for VARs with expertise in both networking technology and the healthcare vertical. And even if you don't have all the expertise now, your distributor and key collaborators can help you get there. The forecast looks strong for networking within the healthcare industry. Are you ready? Let us know your thoughts and concerns in the comments.