EMC throws bigger hat into healthcare enterprise ring

January 24, 2001

Multibillion-dollar data storage provider EMC is riding the information technology wave into healthcare, hoping to achieve the kind of dominance it has attained in virtually every other vertical market it has entered. EMC launched a new

Multibillion-dollar data storage provider EMC is riding the information technology wave into healthcare, hoping to achieve the kind of dominance it has attained in virtually every other vertical market it has entered. EMC launched a new healthcare strategy at the 2000 RSNA meeting that emphasizes the firm's expertise in information infrastructure hardware and software and the role these products can play in streamlining business practices and enhancing patient care.

"It has become increasingly apparent that healthcare must begin to take out even more costs by further consolidating the delivery of services," said Peter Stone, applied technologist for the healthcare vertical at EMC. "IT can play a major role by consolidating the silos of information that still remain in healthcare, which in turn will throw back many operational and cost benefits to the healthcare enterprise."

EMC sees the growing digitization of healthcare as a "remarkable sweet spot" for its storage products. The company partners with most of the traditional HIS vendors and three-quarters of the clinical imaging vendors, including GE, Meditech, Siemens, Philips, Agfa, HBOC, and Per Se. As a result, EMC already has a strong, albeit understated, presence in the healthcare field.

Now the company is looking to take its message more directly to healthcare customers and further stimulate the market for its data storage capabilities. EMC has established a dedicated sales force to work in tandem with its channel partners in marketing the "E-Infostructure" concept, which incorporates the firm's Symmetrix and Clariion data storage systems, integration platform, and suite of data-management software products.

E-Infostructure runs on 45 different computers and any operating system with any file technology. It is designed to provide fault-tolerant, continually available, resilient data storage and recovery, and to meet the growing need for reliable storage and retrieval of mission-critical data in an integrated hospital environment.

"EMC's offering can provide an optimized storage infrastructure independent of server architecture and operating system that maps perfectly to the call for HIS integration and the new requirement to store digital radiographic images," Stone said. "If you store all your health information on one storage infrastructure, you streamline the utility of that information."

Consolidating information from HIS, laboratory, radiology, and clinical patient care ancillaries into a single storage infrastructure also eliminates the replications of data sets, operating systems, computing infrastructures, and operating environments found across the healthcare enterprise, he said. In addition, providing a single information infrastructure allows a health system to improve the manufacture of care by streamlining IT operations, business continuance, disaster recovery, and HIPAA compliance.

"Our intent is to build a very robust information store that surrounds all the attributes of the data and preserves the sanctity of the data inside health systems," Stone said.

If all goes according to plan, EMC should see a substantial boost in healthcare-related revenues over the next few years, although the company declined to disclose projections or discuss its expectations for the healthcare market. EMC reported record sales throughout 2000, with third-quarter revenue reaching $2.14 billion, a 47% jump over the previous year's Q3. Fourth-quarter and year-end 2000 results will be available Jan. 24, but the company is already projecting revenues of $12 billion for 2001.

But some analysts say the company may come up short of these estimates as the number of failed Internet businesses mounts. Ed Broderick, a broker with Robert Frances Group in Connecticut, told techweb.com that while many of the now defunct dot-coms originally paid cash for their storage equipment, they are no longer in business and so will not be purchasing more equipment. Similarly, Tim Scannell of Mobile Insights in Boston said that EMC may be affected in the latter part of the year by expected cutbacks in storage-system expenditures across all markets.

When it comes to the healthcare market, however, EMC remains confident of its prospects, especially now that HIPAA is nearing reality. In addition, technology advances such as electronic medical records, Internet-based enterprise data distribution, and advanced digital imaging technologies will have a dramatic effect on healthcare data storage needs over the next few years.

"With digital imaging coming in across all data sets, the data being collected within healthcare are growing by petabytes on a year-to-year basis," Stone said. "The amount of imaging data in healthcare today is 10 to 25 times what is currently on the ground for HIS, and we are prepared for the vertical leap that healthcare organizations are going to take."