The healthcare industry stands yearly as one of the most lucrative markets for IT solutions providers and there’s no indication of that changing. Because the opportunities are so varied, I’m very excited to report that our March issue of Business Solutions is going to have a very healthcare-focused slant to most of the articles.
In one of the case studies on network security, we spoke with Al Toper, director of technical services at STI Computer Services, a software developer and healthcare solutions provider. Aside from talking about a recent installation for a large gastroenterology practice (sounds like that story will be a blast), Toper talked generally about the top IT needs for medical practices.
“Cost is really what is driving doctors,” he says. “I've got a client who told me he gets the same reimbursement for a bunion-ectomy today as he did in 1985. Reimbursements keep getting cut, but staffing and expenses go up, the staff wants a raise, they're getting squeezed and they need to keep expenses down.” Sounds like a lot of other industries.
“We try to help our clients get as much life out of their computers as possible,” he continues. “I sell about $5 million in hardware a year, but at the end of the year I'm about at the same level as the distributors once you figure shipping and receiving. I make about 1 percent. I don't push our clients to buy new hardware. If I can get seven years out of their server for them, that's important to them.”
But what about new technology? Clearly, medical practices can’t be relying on antiquated equipment and software. “There's definitely a big push for the cloud,” he says. “We use the cloud for everything but the application. My personal belief is that the cloud is a good model, but with technology advances and the need for speed and uptime, we like having any mission-critical applications running locally, and everything else in the cloud, like e-mail. We put the non-critical apps in the cloud.”