Medical practices are a unique business in many ways, not the least of which is the nature of their IT needs. The role of IT inside a medical practice isn't just to support the business operations.
Rather, effective IT in a physican practice or doctor's office also involves protecting confidential patient information; delivering accurate data essential to the healthcare claims and reimbursement process; and supporting life-critical information such as digital X-ray reports or EHR/EMR records.
That is why you need to be extremely selective when choosing the right managed IT provider for your medical practice, and why partnering with a managed IT firm (Managed Services Provider or MSP) that knows the healthcare sector is so essential to your long-term success.
Here are 6 key factors to consider when selecting your medical practice's next managed IT provider:
1. Do they understand healthcare?
First off, you need to consider working with a managed IT firm who has credentials and expertise in the healthcare space, and specifically in working with private physician practices. Look for a firm that knows its way around a doctor's office or clinic and understands how healthcare IT differs from that in other sectors.
2. Are they familiar with compliance and privacy standards?
Look at whether any managed IT firm you're considering knows it's HIPAA from its EMR and its NPPES from its IDNs and PHIs. And if they're not sure what these terms mean, they're probably not clear on how each of these considerations impacts the IT strategy for your practice.
So, what do these terms mean?
- HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that governs patient data privacy.
- EMR is Electronic Medical Records, the unique software that maintains patient information.
- NPPES is the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System that governs how practices are configured and recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
- IDNs are Integrated Delivery Networks, organizations or groups of healthcare providers, "which, through ownership or formal agreements, align local healthcare facilities and manage them with one governing board"
- PHI is Protected Health Information as defined by HIPAA.
3. Can they help protect confidential information?
Let's put it this way: a standard checklist for HIPAA compliance alone requires multiple highly sophisticated and complex steps that follow a five-stage lifecycle for protecting PHI. This includes phases for collection, storage, usage, sharing and disposal. With just that one component in mind, it's essential that your managed IT provider have intimate knowledge of these standards and practices, especially when federal penalties for violations in this area fall under the Office of Civil Rights and can cost up to $1.5 million.
4. Do they deliver 24/7 monitoring and support?
Your practice may be open during specific regular hours, but your IT systems must protect and secure your data and information all the time. It's essential that your managed IT provider back you up with easy and anytime access to their services -- and that they use monitoring software and utilities to stay on top of your systems, uptime, network connectivity, security and more.
5. Are they local so, if needed, they can be at our offices promptly?
While we're on the topic of availability, let's also consider in-person access for you as well. Some forms of IT security risk are truly physical, and sometimes it's your in-office hardware or systems that go down or cause outages. Your managed IT provider needs to be nearby so they can support your entire IT environment, not just the online components.
6. Can they improve our ability to serve patients effectively?
Ultimately, the real question is this: can this company and its team help me improve my abililty to serve patients? Can they reduce risks, increase system availability, ensure that patient information is available when I need it but also secure at all times, and help us take our practice into the future?
If you're looking for solutions to unique IT challenges in your medical practice, consider partnering with the team at Dymin Systems. Dymin is Central Iowa's leader in managed services and managed IT for medical practices located in the Des Moines, Urbandale, Swanwood and Bloomfield region. When you need managed IT for progressive, patient-centered medical practices in Central Iowa, it's time to contact the professionals at Dymin.