Challenge: Determining the right vendors. When it comes to health care in the United States, equipment makers and connectivity suppliers are responsible for making sure their products comply with federal privacy and security HIPAA requirements. But it is up to channel partners to know which of their vendors are HIPAA-compliant and only use those products and services in health care deployments.
Solution: Know your suppliers inside and out. "Cost is important but [the product] has to perform," Murray said. "You have to have a vendor that can prove they are HIPAA-compliant. The conversation begins and ends there."
Challenge: Being able to work with existing networks and hardware. Health care-centric partners have to "really have the knowledge of how [systems] intertwine and connect," Halpin said. "If you miss things, it could be devastating."
Solution: Either employ technical engineers with the proper background and experience to ensure an integrated platform, or subcontract with a partner who does. "When you're dealing with the health care vertical, you have to be sure uptime's there ... because there are severe consequences if it isn't," said Halpin.
Challenge: Service delivery times. Like it or not, suppliers can — and do — suffer installation delays, whether because of problems on their end or due to situations such as natural disasters. With health care customers, it is critical not to overpromise and under-deliver. "There is much more pressure because this is literally life and death" if a network connection or another technology does not deploy in the promised time frame, said CDW's Crawford-Mayberry.
Solution: Build buffers into the service delivery dates.
As the health care system in the United States undergoes changes spurred by federal law, and as technology transforms how the medical community can help patients, there's little doubt that channel partners will play an integral part in outfitting doctors and hospitals with the appropriate tools. The key will be to define where you want to specialize, and then identify subcontractor partners who bring different expertise to a project. On top of that, agents and VARs will be the ones to educate their health care customers about the security of cloud and other services; clients may take you more seriously if you are certified in your area of expertise or can show that you undergo frequent training. You will need to prove your mettle and that of your suppliers'. After all, you don't want your prospects or clients to feel they need a second opinion.
Agents, VARs Partner in Health Care Deployments
The inevitable convergence of the IT and telecom channels has VARs and agents relying on one another in health care deployments, sources say. For example, Black Box Network Services landed a health care project through a telco agent who needed help with networking services, infrastructure cabling and hardware. "That's led to a full-blown partnership," said Black Box's Dave Halpin. And because of the collision of voice and data, Black Box has seen an approximately 20 percent increase in the amount of agents with whom it partners. "This makes life a lot easier on their end, where they don't have to pretend to be experts, and it's easier on our end because mistakes aren't made."
Titanium Communications' Chad Chamides agreed. His telecom agency has been "very successful" working with IT VARs and MSPs who don't want to manage their customers' carrier services. "They want to manage the LAN and look to a partner who has a background on the LAN side, so when there's an issue, they troubleshoot from the LAN side and we troubleshoot from the WAN side." All the end user sees is that their computer, which had been running slowly, now is back to normal. "VARs are as important to us as we are to them," said Chamides.