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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.

Francis Poeta, President of P & M Computers, Inc. a Cliffside Park, N.J.-based storage integrator said one of his clients rejected a storage solution he proposed.

"We were offering a storage life cycle management imaging solution for a hospital's cardiac division. The hospital's IT manager said they did not know if the solution was compatible with GE's solutions, and that's where the conversation ended," Poeta said.

Although P & M Computers has over the last two weeks received 15 calls from hospital officials inquiring about whether the firm could provide them with storage solutions, Poeta said he'll have to think hard about pursuing new business in the health IT sector.

"We don't think we'll be moving forward aggressively with providing storage solutions in the healthcare area until we figure out if hospitals will accept our technology or whether we can be on the approved list of large healthcare vendors," Poeta said.

Keith Norbie, vice president of sales at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based storage VAR, said most of the decisions to buy technology are made by doctors instead of IT managers, and compounding the problem, companies like McKesson have a "gigantic say" in what technology hospitals buy.

"One of our hospital clients wanted to virtualize his server environment for his McKesson applications, and McKesson said they don't support VMware virtualization. The hospital's systems architect went ahead and bought the VMware software from us anyway, installed it and things worked well," Norbie said. However, not all IT managers reject the advice of a vendor, Norbie added.

Gary Chen, IDC analyst, said he has heard similar comments from users and notes that these support issues are more commonplace with the smaller independent software vendor (ISVs) who make niche, vertical applications.

"Often there is just a lack of understanding of how virtualization works and the status of the technology. There are often concerns over how licensing would work in a virtualized environment and performance. Many of these ISVs and their apps have a long entrenched history, a certain way of doing things, and a very conservative approach. So change for them can be slow," Chen said.

And there are other problems too. According to Norbie, the push toward digitizing medical records and the shift to data sharing are expensive to implement especially at a time when healthcare providers' budgets are thin.

"Hospitals face a more widely scrutinized set of requirements than the standard IT shops because patient records have high end governance, high end security, high end retention requirements for documents and very fragmented access points to the technology with different clinics to support the hospitals," Norbie said.

Yet, while these problems are prevalent they are not insurmountable. "We try to find compromises, and we believe the marketplace will evolve and sort things out," Norbie said.

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