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Dell aims to grab more health care dollars

The hardware maker announced it is partnering with Perot Systems and Sam's Club to be a bigger player in the digitization of medical records.

Dell joined a growing chorus of IT companies trying to grab a bigger slice of the market for digital health care records.

The computer maker announced a series of partnerships on Monday aimed at bolstering its health care chops. At the high-end, the company announced a strategic alliance with Perot Systems aimed at selling to hospitals, health systems, and physician practices. At the low-end, Dell said Sam's Club will start selling a system for doctors to manage their records electronically, combining Dell hardware and software from eClincalWorks.

The announcements come at the start of a healthcare technology trade show this week in Chicago. The show is drawing particular attention this year because of the billions of dollars in federal stimulus money being targeted at the digitization of medical records.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, which is putting on the conference, said its annual survey found that implementing electronic medical record and computerized order entry systems was the top IT priority for hospitals and other large healthcare providers. In its survey, it found less than half--41 percent--of those surveyed have even one facility with a fully functioning electronic medical record system. That is up from 32 percent two years ago, however.


Dell is far from the only big computer name making news at that HIMSS convention. Sun is showing off work it did to build the National Health Information Network (NHIN), while Microsoft is touting a deal with New York-Presbyterian Hospital to offer patients access to their electronic records.

As for the Dell partnership, Perot Systems' health care unit vice president, Chuck Lyles, said the deal comes just as the industry is taking off.

"Only 10 percent of the market uses (electronic health records) in some form or fashion," Lyles said at a press conference on Monday. "We really are at an inflection point in the industry."

Lyles said that virtualization should allow hospitals to digitize some of their records using existing servers. He noted that most servers inside hospitals are only being used to about 20 percent efficiency.

"Historically, hospitals have been this one server, one application environment," Lyles said.

Perot and Dell also talked about the ability to run some medical applications in a hosted, "private cloud" offering, which would lower start-up costs and help shift computing into a more variable cost.

In addition to the partnerships, Dell added a healthcare section to its IdeaStorm, electronic brainstorming tool. The discussion started with a pretty universal question--"Why can't there be a standard (global, ideally) for electronic medical records?"