When you were in residence, the thought of 20-hour shifts probably gave you nightmares. At that time you never thought that managing a part of your business would trigger similar anxieties. Of the many things you learned in medical school, managing a technology infrastructure that is robust and meets the demands of a maze of federal regulations was not one of them. As a medical practitioner you don't have experience understanding the inner functioning of your network systems. Also, with additional government regulations there are many reasons to have serious concerns about your IT. Failure to comply with those regulations, caused by mismanagement of your technology infrastructure or anything else, may have far-reaching implications.
There are six reasons you should be concerned about proper management of your IT systems
- Data Security: Any business that deals with the private and personal information of the general public has a tremendous responsibility for safeguarding it. Technology has given you the means and tools to manage the flow of information that is generated by your practice. You save vast amounts of data for instant access from different locations. Unfortunately, this also makes security a larger problem.
- Accessibility: New regulations have been enacted to improve accessibility as well. Now patients must be able to access their own medical information. Patient portals are gaining popularity, which, for health care providers, will be another task to manage.
- Major Upgrades and New Programs: Another big challenge is the transition to new coding standards and government regulations. Now there is urgency on your part due to the updated regulation ICD-10, mandated by Health and Human Services, which must be implemented by Oct. 2015, as well as the implementation of HIPPA-mandated regulation ANSI 5010 effective Jan. 2012. This is a major transition that will have an effect on every facet of your business. A smooth transition is going to require marshalling significant technical and administrative forces.
- Healthcare versus IT Management: The real reason behind all the uncertainty and apprehension about managing your network infrastructure is a lack of background. You were trained to be a health care provider, not an IT specialist. Given the complexity of IT management and the risks from failure or a data breach, it can be downright intimidating.
- Fast Changing Technology and Threats: Growing demand in services and increasing threats from hackers demand new capabilities and safeguards in the form of software and hardware updates. As a health care provider you are unable to keep track of the new threats and viruses that are constantly emerging , and have the potential to threaten your systems and data security.
- Downtime and Data Recovery: Another headache is downtime. Systems break. Reservation and scheduling systems can fail leaving you completely handicapped and unable to function. I was recently at a physician's office where the scheduling system crashed and they had no idea who was coming in—they had no backup of the day's appointments. Until that system was restored, they were completely in the dark. Given the reliance on electronic systems, your office needs to have plans to quickly restore systems, and also ensure effective data back up procedures.
- Cost of IT Management: IT management is expensive, but it is required. The problem is that in-house support is a considerable drain on payroll. Additionally, in-house support, most likely a single full time employee at best, cannot be available or on-call 24/7. Vacations, sick time, and sleep present barriers to that although, of course, all employees should have it! Also, in-house staff may not be able to keep abreast of all the updates and regulatory changes all on their own. One additional cost of IT management is your time. You have to supervise them, and it is unlikely you have the background or desire to do that effectively.
Protecting your client data now goes beyond traditional obligations, especially now that it is regulated by HIPPA. There are serious repercussions for failure to protect personal health information, including fines and penalties running from $100 - $50,000 per violation.
What do you need to do? By now you know that you definitely need help running your IT networks, but whom can you trust with this vitally important task. You have to make sure that you can focus on your core business without any interruptions or worries. You don't want to be told by your staff that your systems have been hacked or your data is not being backed up properly. You need to make sure that you are in complete compliance with government regulations requiring that security and accessibility of data be maintained. All health records must be maintained electronically. A single solution to all these concerns is to use a Managed Service Provider (MSP). A MSP can provide complete support for a worry free work environment and leave you free to concentrate on more important things. It is a cost effective, 24/7 solution that will give you peace of mind.