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3/24/2010
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Health IT Storage Challenges To Surge

The coming demand for storage will be great, but so will regulatory and compliance scrutiny, data security, risk mitigation, and transparency.

Undoubtedly, value added resellers (VARs) offering storage solutions have an opportunity to increase their business in the lucrative healthcare market segment, but that doesn't mean there aren't difficulties along the way.

Just ask a few storage VARs and you'll immediately sense the unease. As a national Health IT infrastructure is being built to support the addition of 32 million Americans to the health insurance rolls, with the goal of each individual having an electronic medical record by 2014, storage VARs say the challenges are great.

"A lot of healthcare organizations are getting ready for a huge inflow of data as they prepare to accommodate electronic health records (EHRs)," said Richard Kuhar, vice president of business development at Akron, Ohio based Arkay Storage Solutions, Inc.

Arkay saw its health IT business jump from 15 percent to 25 percent last year. The increase is in large part due to the company's contracts to provide storage to the University of Michigan's medical school and the National Institutes of Health.

"In the health area there's a lot of growth in server and desktop virtualization, often leaving health IT managers trying to decide how to integrate disparate data storage networks into a more centralized and manageable infrastructure," Kuhar said.

Health IT managers are also considering using software-as-a-service (SaaS) and other cloud-based services for healthcare records, medical automation, and other areas of their business, Kuhar said.

Yet while the prospect of gaining new business in the health arena is bright, there are difficulties; chief among them is the diligence necessary to address issues such as regulatory/compliance scrutiny, best-practice management, data security, risk mitigation and transparency.

"The certification game is tricky," Kuhar said. He noted that one of the biggest problems in Health IT is the "red tape" which often seems to stifle competition and innovation. It is not enough that a given solution works well. In addition it must often jump hurdles of certification championed by the likes of large original equipment manufacturers such as GE Healthcare or McKesson Corporation, PACS (picture archiving and communication system) or other medical application/platform manufacturers, or even from well-established vendors such as EMC or IBM, all of whom may hold some sway over whether a given hardware/software solution being offered is compatible or not.

"When you are talking about integrating any systems it's a chance for somebody to make threats about going against the status quo. This may include stating that you will jeopardize support, harm performance, or create some other wrinkle in any given vendor's specifically-controlled component of the infrastructure," Kuhar said. "Such guidelines are certainly prudent, even if it's not always known to whose advantage they are actually meant. Healthcare is serious business," Kuhar added.

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