McKesson Corp. is selling its clinical applications for doctors' offices and hospitals based on Red Hat's Enterprise Linux operating system, offering what McKesson says is a less-expensive alternative to non-open source platforms.
The partnership unveiled Monday is the first reseller agreement for Red Hat in the health care industry. In a joint statement, McKesson and Red Hat said McKesson's Horizon Clinicals applications for hospitals and doctors' offices would be offered on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform in Intel-based computer servers. McKesson software is separately available on Windows.
Buying the McKesson/Red Hat package would involve a software license from McKesson and a separate support and service contract from Red Hat. While each company would support its own products, a customer who calls McKesson would not have to worry about being shuffled to Red Hat, the companies said. One call would get the technical support needed. "We want to get the customer to the expert, so we will make it seamless," says Joanne Rohde, executive VP of worldwide operations for Red Hat.
Information technology spending is growing faster in health care than in many other industries, as hospitals look to hold down escalating costs through the efficiencies of technology. As a result, companies like Red Hat, as well as its larger rival Microsoft, are looking to help hospitals take their legacy systems into the 21st century.
Among the key focuses in health care IT today is in providing doctors and nurses with easier access to electronic patient records that can be updated from the clinical environment. There's also a major focus on supply chain integration, so hospitals can more easily communicate electronically with pharmacies and insurance companies.
Rohde acknowledged that Microsoft Windows today is widely used on desktops found in hospitals and doctors' offices. But she believes Red Hat can gain traction in running popular clinical applications like McKesson's and work out to the client from there. "This is the beginning of a long-term partnership" with McKesson, Rohde says. "And the reason why they're interested in us is to eventually extend the platform to the device side."
The ability to move patient data to a mobile device that nurses or doctors can take with them on patient rounds is a focus for many hospitals. The University of California, San Francisco, Medial Center is testing such a device called the C5, which was built by Intel and Motion Computing. The device runs Windows XP or Vista.
The Red Hat/McKesson package is being used at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas. By deploying the clinical software on multiple, inexpensive x86 Intel servers in separate locations, the hospital has built a failover system that's less expensive than other disaster recovery systems. "With this highly flexible approach, we have the mission-critical reliability we need for patient care at a much lower cost," Kay Carr, chief information officer at St. Luke's, said in a statement distributed by the tech vendors.
McKesson claims that hospitals running its software on Linux in Intel-based hardware, in general, have realized cost savings up to 60% compared with traditional system deployments.
The Red Hat Linux platform includes the JBoss Enterprise Middleware, open source software that's used to move data to other platforms via XML, Rohde says. The messaging technology can be used to communicate with handheld devices.
Meanwhile, McKesson on Monday said that it acquired Physician Micro Systems. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Known as Practice Partner, Physician Micro sells integrated software for electronic health records, medical billing, and appointment scheduling for independent physician practices. The acquisition follows McKesson's recent purchase of Per-Se Technologies and expands its offerings for physician practices.