Healthcare Deadline Could Yield MSP Opportunities

A government program rolling out this year provides financial incentives to physicians and hospitals that adopt electronic health records. MSPs may benefit as well as healthcare organizations scramble to meet the program’s deadlines. But this isn't a run toward easy money. MSPs that chase the healthcare dollars are going to need some key skills and relationships.

First the background: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act offers incentives for healthcare providers who demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic health records. To do that, providers must accomplish objectives such as processing a certain percentage of their orders electronically.

The financial incentives could reach as high as $27.3 billion, according to government estimates.

The catch for healthcare providers: to qualify for the meaningful use incentive dollars they must achieve the government’s objectives (23 tasks for hospitals and 25 for physicians) according to a timetable.

The first year in which the incentive becomes available is 2011 and providers who seek to quality must demonstrate proficiency at some point during that year. Timing is important since the value of the incentive declines for providers who satisfy the objectives in 2013 or later.

So, there’s a sense of urgency here -- and opportunities for service providers. Here’s where:

1. Hosting/SaaS: Many solo practitioners, group practices and small hospitals have yet to adopt electronic health records. While traditional software deployments can prove time consuming, the SaaS approach could speed up the process for providers. SaaS could also help providers who lack extensive IT infrastructure and would prefer to avoid up-front licensing costs.

Some MSPs already have made moves in the electronic health records field. Managed hosting provider NaviSite , for example, works with eClinicalWorks, an electronic health records vendor. The relationship  started as a colocation deal, but NaviSite also provides “managed services for  eClinicalWorks in a managed hosting environment,” according to NaviSite.

In addition, Dell Perot Systems hosts and manages electronic health records for
physicians’ practices, working with such software vendors as Allscripts.

Consulting. Service providers without a data center to host solutions can still partner with vendors. Practice Fusion, which offers a hosted electronic health records system, teams with certified consultants who help customers with technology adoption.

2. Remote monitoring/management. Some physicians and practices will opt to deploy in-house. But they may lack in-house IT support. MSPs can keep an eye on the servers so busy offices don’t have to. They can also offer business continuity and data protection services.

Quite a few MSPs have built successful health care practices. Examples include ETG and EMR Group. But be careful of the hype. During recent conferences, ETG CEO Mike Jones has warned peers that the healthcare market requires long-term dedication to unlock customer dollars.

Additional reporting by Joe Panettieri.

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