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Avnet's HealthPath: Healthcare IT training for solution providers

Before planning to offer healthcare networking services, it's important that you understand the market. But how can you fully educate yourself? Avnet's HealthPath University provides hands-on healthcare IT training and seminars for partners looking to get into healthcare IT services.

Offering healthcare networking services means that your customers are relying on you to provide services that can mean life or death for patients. Is this something you would trust learning on your own? Maybe, but it could be a better option to get hands-on healthcare IT training.

This is what Avnet's HealthPath University promises. This comprehensive training includes seminars on business issues, healthcare industry organization, medical acronyms, etc. and a hands-on internship that includes time spent at a hospital to understand the technology uses by doctors and other staff. By enrolling in this program, Avnet HealthPath University enrollees have increased revenue growth by 40% in the healthcare industry, compared to 8 to 10% for Avnet partners who have not enrolled.

This Q&A with David Hutchinson, Avnet's VP of healthcare solutions, sheds light on the HealthPath program and what partners can learn about healthcare networking services.

David, can you give us a little background on Avnet's HealthPath and the intent behind the healthcare IT training program?

We started the practice five years ago, and it's the most mature practice that we have among Solutions Path, which is made up of multiple vertical practices as well as technology practices. It was built with the fundamental premise of providing our partners everything they need to be successful selling into a vertical market -- provide all of the training, capabilities, tools, resources, and especially the solution that they need to focus on in the industry.

Initially when we launched it, we tried to figure out the value proposition we would offer our partners. The biggest gap we saw was our partners' true understanding of the industry itself, and the complexities and opportunities in healthcare. So initially, we wanted to fill that [gap] in, so we developed the University to address that.

Today, HealthPath is designed to provide end-to-end enablement. It starts with business analysis, (assessing our partner's understanding of the industry and technology), then strategic planning -- so building and executing a plan, and then moving into training and enablement.

What kind of healthcare IT training does HealthPath entail? What can your networking partners get out of the program?

If you look at the components of the training, we really have three different pieces. One is an intro to healthcare -- this is a field-based training that we can provide onsite to a partner, and it is for a partner who is considering developing a focus in healthcare but wants to understand a little more about the industry and opportunities before making the leap. That leads to the university itself, which is broken down into two pieces -- three full days of training, two days of which are in the industry itself. This is about understanding the complexities of the industry -- how the industry is organized, regulatory requirements, acronyms, buzz words, business issues, and various types of technologies. We end that with an introduction to the type of solutions that a partner could take on and take to market to help solve business issues. And these are solutions that mesh with the core competency of the partners. Beyond that, we go to the internship, which is an advanced level of training that's held onsite at Scottsdale Healthcare.

We take partners through a five-day training where they get to navigate between 11-14 departments of the hospital and the training is taught by the hospital staff and hospital heads. It's a lecture/observation type of format. The premise is cultivating the understanding the culture of healthcare and how it's organized internally and how they intertwine between the various departments within the hospitals. You have a solid understanding about what happens inside the four walls of a hospital.

Then we have solution playbooks. These are detailed solution plays that start with what the business issue is, how the particular solution solves that problem and what that solution is made up of. Beyond that, we have on-demand education, which includes a resource library for healthcare, which can be accessed by a partner at any time, and includes a dictionary of acronyms, industry-based trends, and any supporting information around those solutions. And then we have the know-how center with videos, podcasts, market trends, and test practices.

What we're moving to is solutions mastery. Once we have a specific solution launched and introduced to a partner, then we have our partners get certified on specific solutions. If you look at the levels, there are two pieces -- one is the industry, and two is specific solutions that match the core competency of a partner.

For a networking partner, we tailor the day 3 offerings in HealthPath University to the core competency of that particular target base, so we would target that day specifically for how networking plays a part in industries. The other key is one of the technology practices, NetworkPath. So our technology practices play a big part in building out the curriculum.

Does HealthPath also address the cultural differences between working with hospital staff vs. other types of customers?

That is the intent of the internship. You get an advanced level of training, you get an introduction to the culture and how decision making happens in a healthcare environment. And once you go to the internship, you start to understand what's important to a hospital. And that's delivering care, and the quality of care. It's all about that, and then what gets tied into that is how technology impacts it. So the culture piece is covered.

What healthcare networking technologies does HealthPath focus on?

I think it's important to understand how we build out our solution offerings. Within HealthPath, we have a solution architecture, and it's a solution hierarchy that starts at a very high level and is designed around what the top CIO priorities are in healthcare. So when you start talking about networking technologies, we're one level above that. In other words, networking technology is going to be an integral part of some of these solutions.

Top priorities right now that are in our hierarchy include security and compliance, clinical intelligence, connected health, healthcare data management, clinical interoperability, and infrastructure optimization. So you can see that networking is going to be an integral part in any one of those areas -- we're not just talking about Ethernet and things like that, which will be part of it anyway. [Networking] is going to be an integral part in areas like connected health, which is an aspect of telemedicine and telehealth. his includes a huge networking component to it as well as healthcare data management. Offsite digital imaging and healthcare info management requires networking to be part of it as well. It's at a higher level, very directed at healthcare and focusing on where technology fits into those areas.

What kind of demand have you seen from your partners? How many have enrolled?

I can tell you we've never had an issue with enrollment from day one. We've done 24 programs over the last four years. We've had over 500 partner representatives that attended those universities and that's from over 300 different partners and company accounts.

Today, our issue with enrollment is having too many. We like to keep the class sizes to about 35 because we like to keep it interactive. Once you get a room too big, it starts to lose that, so we're actually at the point right now where there's so much more demand that we've extended to over 50 per class.

The other important thing that we have seen from a training perspective is that the interaction today within that class is very different than it was from day one. So what's happening is -- and we'd like to think we're making a major impact in this -- the healthcare competency in the reseller channel is going up. The questioning, the involvement is at a higher level of complexity than it was at the beginning stages.

How has HealthPath's healthcare IT training helped your partners in the healthcare industry?

Our top healthcare partners from our last fiscal year, comparing year over year growth, have grown at about 40% average growth. We have a set of partners who haven't taken enrolled in HealthPath University who are selling to healthcare, their growth rates are around the industry average of 8-10%, so there's a pretty big gap between partners who are making the investment compared to those who are still considering dabbling in the industry.

How have the hospitals who take part in HealthPath feel about the program? What about hospitals who aren't taking part in the healthcare IT training?

With Scottsdale Healthcare, we have a relationship there that we've built on. They love delivering these internships. Keep in mind, they're open for business, so it's not like we can run an internship every quarter -- we do one every six months. But they love delivering it because they feel like (and this is what healthcare is about) they're raising quality of care. Technology plays such a big role in that, so they feel like they're making a difference in taking these technology partners and helping them understand what they face and how they can help the situation.

Healthcare institutions especially would rather have a partner who understands their business to help them versus someone that they have to train, and they are willing to pay more for that. We're banking on that fact. So we definitely have seen that, going back to Scottsdale, that's exactly why they participate. They feel like they're helping other healthcare institutions get competent partners working with them who really understand their business.

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