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Incumbency is as powerful in the IT business as it is in politics.

Proof of that can be seen in the way that the Tufts-New England Medical Center, known as NEMC, has approached its compliance with the federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations.

NEMC last year brought in Perot Systems Corp., of Plano, Texas, to set up and manage a new IT infrastructure, complete with project management, systems implementation, systems integration and infrastructure support services. At the time, NEMC had just pulled out of a five-year association with Lifespan, a Rhode Island-based consortium of hospitals that shares a range of business services, including IT.

So, when NEMC began to address HIPAA, which requires that steps are taken to ensure security and confidentiality when dealing with patient information, Perot Systems was a top candidate for the job.

“We looked at ‘Who do you trust?’ ‘Who is best positioned to deliver?’” said Bill Shickolovich, CIO at NEMC, which runs two hospitals in Boston. “We came off a nice success with Perot,” Shickolovich said.

Because of its existing relationship with NEMC, Perot Systems became the “odds-on favorite” to do the work to bring the hospital into compliance with HIPAA, Shickolovich said. NEMC considered other systems integrators, but it needed to move fast to winnow candidates, so it didn’t put out a request for proposals.

When it comes to tackling HIPAA requirements, it is crucial that whoever takes on the task understands the implications on the business, Shickolovich said. In fact, IT staffers do not even constitute the majority of the team working on HIPAA.

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