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With healthcare legislation looming on the horizon and the stimulus bill’s healthcare IT directives already passed, 2010 holds promise for VARs large and small looking to enter the healthcare market. Dimension Data is one integrator, obviously in the large category, that is helping healthcare practices and hospitals implement network solutions and support their moves to Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

“In order for medical personnel to derive maximum benefit from the new system and want to adopt it over the ‘traditional way,’ they need to have data appear on their screens within seconds and be able to filter and modify it instantly – anytime, anywhere.” Said Felix Guzman, senior consultant for Dimension Data. 

One Dimension Data customer is InterMed, a physician-owned healthcare practice with almost 75,000 patient. InterMed is leaps and bounds ahead of other similar-sized practices in the country. The company already implemented EMR across its practice and also integrated it with a new contact center, provided by Dimension Data, aimed at improving patient care and capturing pay for performance incentives from both the government and insurance companies.

Located in Southern Maine, InterMed provides the gamut of medical care, with both primary care and specialist physicians in areas like obstetrics, cardiology, and dermatology. The company is the second largest independent practice in the state of Maine.

For the past three years, InterMed worked with medical software vendor eClinicalWorks to make the make the move to Electronic Medical Records (EMR). In addition, InterMed implemented Dimension Data’s network and unified communications infrastructure required to support its EMR deployment as well as establish a VoIP call and contact center that it hoped would improve customer service through first call resolution and more efficient scheduling. Today, InterMed clinical workers and physicians use tablets or fixed PCs in exam rooms, and enter all information into InterMed’s eClinical Work system.

Last year’s passage of the federal stimulus package and its pay for performance program is pushing healthcare organizations to implement EMR, and putting penalties in place that make EMR a necessary choice for hospitals and practices. Organizations that implement over the next year can enjoy higher incentive payments on Medicare and Medicaid beginning in 2011, while those that do not will suffer penalties beginning in 2015.

“We were definitely on the early end of adoption – two and half years ago, we did it on our own long before federal stimulus money was available,” said InterMed’s CEO Dan McCormack – we believed it was coming, but a bigger motivation was an improvement in clinical care and that it would become a factor in recruiting physicians. We want to be competitive.”

Implementing EMR is not an easy or cheap task, however. On top of a $400,000 software license fee, hardware investment, and additional service implementation costs, McCormack reported an initial 10 percent drop in productivity among physicians that translated into a revenue loss well into the six or seven figures during the change management process. From a VAR perspective, however, these sophisticated engagements will play out over long stretches of recurring services revenue.

McCormack is confident that the system will reap return over time, however, pointing to pay for performance incentives established by the healthcare industry and the federal government as well as new patient acquisition.

“Over time it will pay for itself,” said McCormack. “If a practice meets targets, they will see increases in health insurance reimbursements—EMR is a critical tool for doing that successfully. You can’t do that on paper.”

To support its EMR migration, InterMed also invested in a 30-seat call center and network infrastructure which reaped tangible return for the healthcare practice through new patient acquisition and improved patient care and efficiency.

McCormack said InterMed implemented its contact center, provided by Dimension Data and powered by Cisco Unified Contact Center, to improve customer service workflow and relieve patient frustration.

“If the patients were calling us for anything else besides an appointment booked out months in advance, in most situations, the call was put into the voicemail of a clinical assistant, said McCormack.” Inevitably, it led to high level of frustration and back and forth phone calls.”

“Working with InterMed, we tailored the system to their requirements, and we measure our success – both with this deployment and with our other healthcare clients – by the increased efficiencies resulting and improvements to overall patient care,” said Guzman.

Post-implementation, McCormack says InterMed now resolves almost 50 percent of patient inquiries on the first touch, and the system contributed to building a better brand in the community and an increase in word-of-mouth referrals.

InterMed’s contact center is fully integrated with its EMR system so clinicians and call center representatives access the necessary information to complete the call, including doctor schedules, open appointments, and prescription information.