ITAC merges with health-care technology association

Two high-tech industry associations have joined forces to create a united front to promote the use of information and communication technology by workers in the health-care sector.

The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) Thursday announced it has merged with the Canadian Healthcare Information Technology Trade Association (CHITTA). CHITTA’s 60 members will join ITAC’s existing base of 1,300 companies, bringing their industry knowledge and expertise to the table. Under the terms of the agreement, CHITTA will operate as a division of ITAC and CHITTA’s board will be expanded to ensure equal representation. The integration of the two associations is expected to take 18 months, with the first phase to focus on administrative functions.

“It was reaching to the point where we were starting to cross paths,” said CHITTA CEO Steven Huesing. “We felt that it would be a better idea to come together.”

The agreement marks the first of its kind in several years at ITAC. Its last high-profile merger took place in 2001 when it folded in the Strategic Microelectronics Consortium (SMC) in to attract more federal government funding to the Canadian IT industry. The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, in contrast, has merged with several other organizations over the last two years.

“It’s something our board of directors want to be careful about,” said ITAC president and CEO Bernard Courtois. “ITAC is not a business. It exists to serve our members.”

Courtois added ICT and health care is one of ITAC’s top three priorities.

CHITTA, which was launched in 2002 by a group of CEOs and senior executives, will now be able to take advantage of ITAC’s strengths in advocacy, communication and administration, Heusing said.

“The CHITTA board got a sense that we would probably have to play in a bigger field,” said Heusing. “Given the number of acquisitions and mergers that are happening within the industry itself, the notion of going that way ourselves and developing some kinds of advocacy resources wasn’t something that was in our capabilities to do.”

Huesing added the amount of money available to support associations is limited by the number of vendors in the field and how big they are.

One of the big problems ITAC hopes to address is the problem of lack of investment in ICT technologies in the health-care sector. According to ITAC, Canada has historically under-invested in this area, at less than two per cent of health-care operating expenditures compared with other countries like Sweden, which invests two times that much.

The size of vendor community that serves them is not as large as you might think. The amount of money available to support associations is limited by the number of vendors in the field and how big they are, Huesing said.

“We’ve got problems enough trying to get the health-care system modernized in terms of use of technology,” said ITAC’s Courtois. “We’re going to need a unified industry and not a fragmented one.”

ITAC and CHITTA, however, are encouraged by government-led initiatives like Canada Health Infoway, for example, which promises to drive $2 billion of new spending on interoperable Electronic Health Records.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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