Apr 5, 2009

New Health Care Game, New Routes to Market

Two more major corporations have jumped (further) into the exploding information market centered on the U.S. health care system.

This time it’s GE Medical and Intel in a partnership to improve remote motion-monitoring devices and networks used in hospitals, nursing homes, and private residences. Last month it was Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club unit bringing together hardware from Dell Computer and software from eClinicalWorks to provide tens of thousands of small medical offices with affordable electronic record-keeping.

And in February, Google and IBM announced a partnership aimed at linking up vital-signs monitors to provide a more complete real-time picture of individuals under care. This can’t be the complete list of recent health information big moves and shakes. Microsoft, for one, is quite active, I’m told. There have to be others out there as well, poised to go.

Most of the technology is probably off the shelf. I’m no expert in this field, but I’d be surprised if product breakthroughs are driving this spate of partnerships. The real action is in marketing and distribution. The exploding opportunity – demographics plus government funding – is going to be captured by companies who nail their routes-to-market strategies.

Just look at the structure proposed by Sam’s Club. Remarkable without a doubt. But dubious-till-proven in its premise that physicians who shop for home with their Sam’s Club card are going to entrust Sam’s with the creation of a brand-new nervous system for their business. Perhaps a big chunk of them are indeed wandering Sam’s aisles looking for office supplies and solutions. I sure would like to see the data on that!

Regardless, Sam’s moves must be pointing to significant gaps in current small office healthcare products channels, and the move is certianly a loud wakeup call to any established device makers, systems providers, or their channel partners that might be running on autopilot.

They better take notice - the health care distribution game is wide open and evolving fast.

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