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Stage One of "Meaningful Use" Electronic Health Records (EHR)
guidelines finally arrived from the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, and VARs wanting to snag a piece of the exploding EHR market need to understand
it all inside and out.  Big players, such as HP and Sage, and distributors,
such as Tech Data and Avnet, are making no bones about their desire to play a
large role in the nationwide EHR move that will occur over the next few years,
and they are providing channel partners and customers with educational and
sales tools to make their solutions even more palatable to the marketplace.

For those new to the complex world of EHR, here is a quick recap: the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed last year included monetary
incentives for doctors and hospitals that completed the move to EHRs. These
monetary incentives come in the form of larger payouts from Medicare and
Medicaid, and total more than $25 billion. In order to begin receiving the
first incentives in fiscal 2011—which begins in October 2010—hospitals and
doctors need to demonstrate "meaningful use" of EHRs.

Just three weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
released an updated version of what constitutes "meaningful use." The
original draft rules, according to many, appeared to lack clear definition and
had CIOs
scrambling to understand and implement
a solution, as "Channel Insider"
recently reported. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services
facilitated feedback from industry associations, professionals and others to
retool and refine the rules. The results were released in mid-July.

The revamped guidelines require doctors and hospitals to meet 14 or 15 "core"
requirements instead of the 23 or 25 original guidelines. These include items such
as entering patient data such (i.e., smoker status, allergies, etc.) into the
EHR system and sending reminders to patients when appointments are due. All of
these guidelines are intended to cut a chunk out of the 70 percent of
healthcare spend focused on treating preventable disease.

Since EHR and "meaningful use" were initially laid out in the
ARRA, solutions providers of all sizes and technologies have been angling for a
way to get a piece of the massive spend ready to explode over the next four
years.  What’s more, channel-reliant companies are partnering up and
arming their partners with the tools to ease the sales process and grease the
revenue skids.

HP recently announced a
new program called HP EHReady
, providing financing for EHR and supporting
technology purchases and support and lead referrals for its VAR
partners. This builds on its other channel-focused healthcare program,
Healthcare Express, which provides customizable marketing materials,
presentations and other sales tools for HP VARs targeting the healthcare space.

IT distributor Tech Data is also getting into the act.
The company unveiled its healthcare division last November, and then became one
of the first distributors to land
a deal with an EHR vendor
, most of which were staying away from the channel
for a number of reasons. Tech
Data partnered with Sage North American Healthcare Division
to provide its
EHR solutions to healthcare VARs. And Sage is supporting its move into the
channel, recently announcing it would offer free "e-consults" and
Q&As with industry experts about navigating "meaningful use" for
channel partners, as well as for hospitals and physicians end-users.