A new report examines strategies Cisco, Oracle and Olympus have adopted to attack the ehealth market
26th November 2003, Cambridge UK: A report published this week by the consultancy, Wireless Healthcare, warns IT vendors who are attempting to gain a foothold in the ehealth market not to repeat the mistakes made during the Dot Com era. The report, 'Large Vendors In A Niche Market', states that marketing strategies will fail if they are based solely on the assumption that a growing number of elderly patients will force the NHS to spend heavily on IT.
Following the bursting the telecoms media and technology bubble major IT vendors embarked on several rounds of cost cutting. However reigning in expenditure does not produce sales growth. Consequently equipment and software manufacturers have sought new markets that offer the prospect of rapid growth. When the government announced it would increase funding for the healthcare sector, IT vendors were quick to position themselves to take full advantage of any growth in spending on ehealth and other healthcare related technology.
However Wireless Healthcare points out that the belief that a 'greying market' will drive up healthcare IT expenditure may be as misplaced as WorldCom's prediction that IP traffic would double every three months. The report explains that people are living longer because, in general, they are fitter and healthier. A person's healthcare requirements tend to peak during the last year of their life and an ageing population may actually ease the burden on healthcare providers by postponing expenditure on acute care.
The report also notes that a significant proportion of the additional funding for healthcare is tied to strict performance targets. In many cases the only way healthcare providers can meet those targets is to recruit additional staff. Even IT projects that are close to deployment are unlikely to help healthcare managers achieve targets within the four-year election cycle.
Wireless Healthcare point out that, as the ehealth market is comparatively small, vendors find it difficult to recruit suitable system integrators. In some cases IT companies have found it necessary to work directly with the end user. The report highlights a number of problems that could arise if ehealth remains a niche market and vendors are unable to address it through third party developers and system integrators.
The report suggests IT vendors should concentrate on applications, such as remote blood sugar monitoring, that are relevant to both young and old patients alike. While healthcare providers feel they are equipped to deal with ageing baby boomers they will come under pressure if, just as a large number of people reach old age, the next generation fall victim to diabetes and a range of other diet related diseases. Already it is believed that some old people could outlive their children. Wireless Healthcare explains that while younger people tend to have unhealthy lifestyles, it is this generation, rather than older people, who are purchasing electronic healthcare devices such as heart rate and blood sugar monitors.
In their report Wireless Healthcare describes a typical ehealth application - an integrated, wireless enabled, blood-testing system for diabetes sufferers that automatically adds results to the patient's electronic medical record. Wireless Healthcare uses this scenario to assess the ability of three vendors, Cisco, Oracle and Olympus-Osyris to build a presence in the ehealth market on the back of a relatively straightforward niche application. As Peter Kruger, Wireless Healthcare's Senior Analyst, explains. "Success in the ehealth market will depend on the vendor's ability to use the experience gained from small niche applications to construct a comprehensive ehealth platform." Kruger believes that Oracle's Healthcare Transaction Base represents a significant step in this direction. "A vendor is more likely to succeed in the ehealth market if they concentrate on developing an ehealth platform and let specialist third party developers build the actual applications."
About Wireless Healthcare
Wireless Healthcare is a UK based consultancy specialising in mobile healthcare and the development and management of ehealth projects.
The report, "Large Vendors In A Niche Market," costs £49+vat and is available from www.wirelesshealthcare.co.uk
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