Health care is the largest segment of the U.S. economy, yet when it comes to IT infrastructure health care usually gets warmed-over industrial and corporate solutions. You'd think a vertical market as large as health care would get solutions better tailored to its needs. The situation is so bad that a company like Vocera can develop, release, and grab market share with a health care focused wireless VoIP solution before most competitors can say, "boo!"

Of course, no one likes getting out of their comfort zone, but as medical devices continue to morph from boxes to information systems, vendors will have to chose between diving into health care or losing to companies who better meet health care market requirements - this is already playing out in the mobile workforce/communications market segment. (Based on HIMSS this year, we'll be returning to this theme many times.)

Avaya was on my list of exhibitors to investigate. I was impressed by their modest booth (no alter to corporate egos here), but disappointed with the channel resellers who made up most of the "Avaya" reps in the booth. To those that I talked with, health care was another industry in which to sell their generic product. Avaya's got some great technology and solutions, especially their cross vendor integration and support for many different types of configurations. But without a more specific health care strategy, I doubt they'll displace established vendors like SpectraLink or innovative players like Vocera or Ascom.

As I moved on, I grabbed a copy of Mobile Workforce for Dummies (not an inexpensive marketing piece, I'm sure). I loved the organization of the book; it's a great way to approach the topic of mobile workers. But in reading the book, I was struck repeatedly how different the corporate world they describe is from health care - I was quickly skimming pages to pass all the "does not apply to me" stuff to learn something about the technology. Writing a piece like this for health care would be fun, as would developing the product strategy required to really support health care - if you need help with either of these, let me know.

Enough about vendors and their problems, what about prospective buyers? Any large ambulatory care provider or hospital must go way beyond the standard corporate needs assessment described in Mobile Workforce for Dummies. Not only must you consider additional categories of workers and near- to mid-term HIT initiatives; care delivery models and the inevitable increase of wireless medical devices must also be considered if you want to avoid unanticipated costs or a crippled system down the road. Communications cannot be separated from the delivery of care, patient safety or outcomes. If you'd like to discuss thoughts on needs assessments in ambulatory or hospital settings, give me a call.