Take Distributed Scanning To Doctors' Offices
New desktop scanner hardware and software features make it possible for VARs to earn up to 40% profit margins selling to doctors' offices.
Private physicians' practices (i.e. doctors' offices) are one sector within the healthcare market that has traditionally been slow to adopt document management technology. By being aware of advances in distributed scanning hardware and software technology and heeding the advice of industry experts on how to approach decision makers in this arena, VARs can penetrate this lucrative market.
Scanners With Card Reading, One-Touch Capabilities Reduce Redundancy
Desktop scanners aren't new to physicians' offices, but some of the functionality available today is. Doctors' offices have traditionally experienced difficulty scanning patient drivers' licenses and medical cards and integrating scanned images into their patient care systems. Often, the front desk clerk had to make copies of drivers' licenses and medical cards and feed the paper copies into a scanner. Now, however, scanners with dedicated card-scanning feeders enable cards to be scanned without having to make copies. "The scanners can capture the front and back of a medical card in a single pass," says Murray Dennis, CEO of Visioneer. "This hardware is available for less than $1,500, which is less than half of what a similar scanner used to cost."
One of the big differences between large hospitals and private physicians' practices is that doctors' offices don't have trained scanner operators. They have billing clerks and other administrative personnel whose daily job functions are not dedicated to scanning information. That's why special functionality and ease of use is important. For example, scanners with one-touch scanning capabilities are a good fit for private physicians' offices. Common activities such as saving a document as a searchable PDF and sending a copy via e-mail to a medical insurance company can be reduced from a 14-step process to the touch of a single button. "VARs can find upsell opportunities by creating multiple shortcut programs that can be launched via the shortcut buttons," says Dennis.
Another scanning feature well-suited for physicians' practices is image enhancement software, which enables documents that are scanned crookedly to be automatically deskewed. The software also enables scanned images to be presented on the user's monitor right side up, no matter which way a document was oriented when it was fed into the scanner.
Document Management Software Helps Ease Physicians' Fears Of Change
Doctors are best known for their poor handwriting. But, any VAR that sells document management (or storage or wireless) technology to doctors' offices knows that doctors are also known for their aversion to change. The good news for VARs is that document management software vendors are paying attention. "Many workflow solutions are now designed to emulate their paper counterparts," says Joe Luber, director of business development, partners at Allscripts. For example, in a traditional setting, physicians' assistants prepare patient records so that doctors can quickly skim the most relevant patient data. This may entail pulling five documents such as patient history, the latest lab results, notes about recent patient complaints/ailments, physical exam results, and an EOB (explanation of benefits) form and arranging them at the front of the patient's folder. Electronic patient records applications enable this step to be performed much more efficiently using computers. "Because the electronic version of the patient record is an image of the paper record, it can be built with colored tabs, and doctors can flip through it similarly to the way they would flip through a patient's paper file," says Luber. "Plus, by having all the information indexed and formatted as searchable PDFs, information can be retrieved much more quickly than having a physician or assistant sift through a paper file."
To Overcome Physician Budget Restrictions, Think Phased Install Or ASP
Besides their aversion to changing the way they access patient records, physicians often have legitimate budget restraints that make a $100,000-plus EMR investment out of the question. But, even this objection can be overcome. "VARs can start their clients with basic imaging solutions for less than half the cost of a total EMR solution," says Ed McQuiston, director of healthcare markets at Hyland Software, Inc. "For example, a VAR could provide a physicians' office with a document imaging solution for medical charts. After the client realized a payback on the imaging piece, the VAR could discuss adding modules for handling EOBs, electronic forms, or an electronic prescribing solution." The benefit of taking a modular approach is that clients can automate their paper processes at their pace because, in most cases, one module's success is not dependent on installing another module.
Another approach McQuiston sees VARs use is the ASP (application service provider) model. In this model, the VAR hosts the document management application and may even be responsible for scanning and managing the client's paper files. The VAR makes the client's data available to the client via a virtual LAN (VLAN) or terminal server, using a dedicated T1 connection between the VAR's and client's facilities or using the Internet (and a VLAN setup). Hosted solutions are sold on a subscription basis and typically cost a couple hundred dollars per month per physician. VARs that are considering this model have to take into account their clients' data ownership and privacy concerns. "The best way to overcome these obstacles is to address them with a client's IT department, clearly describing the ASP infrastructure and the security model required for HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) compliance," says McQuiston. "Also, concerns about ownership of data should be addressed through the ASP agreement, and it should be made very clear that the clients' data will not be held hostage if the client decides to cancel." The ASP agreement should also explain how the VAR's servers are configured to prevent unauthorized users from viewing the client's sensitive data.
Avoid Cold Calling, Join Medical Associations
Even though document management technology and healthcare regulations are making document scanning solutions more appealing to private physicians' offices, the solutions don't sell themselves. But, that doesn't mean VARs should spend a lot of time making cold calls to doctors' offices. "The decision makers at doctors' offices — practice administrators, office managers, and physicians — get bombarded with calls every day," says Dan Western, healthcare business development manager at Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc. "A much better approach for gaining an audience with them is to participate in the same associations they do." For example, the MGMA (Medical Group Management Association), HFMA (Healthcare Financial Management Association), and HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) all have national, state, and local chapters that VARs can join. "These are the forums where medical decision makers pay attention to demonstrations and speeches about technology that can help comply with industry regulations," says Western. "This is also a good place for VARs to understand the issues their clients face and the language they use to describe their problems."
There are tens of thousands of private physicians' offices in the United States. Even though electronic health record adoption is on the rise, many doctors' offices are still maintaining paper patient records, managing paper EOB forms, and paying lots of money to store paper. VARs that can engage these clients about the latest document hardware and software technologies available can become long-term partners and earn gross profit margins in the 35% to 40% range.