Here are a few points to consider when choosing the right IT services provider for your healthcare practice needs.
Operating environment-Windows or Mac: Due to the dominance of Windows platform in the business world, most IT service providers are Microsoft specialists. This works well for most healthcare practices. However if your practice uses the Apple Macintosh platform, you should look for certified Apple consultants.
Experience within the healthcare vertical: Choose an IT service provider with experience in the healthcare industry and specifically to your specialty. For: example dental practices, radiology practices should choose a service provider that has extensive experience in those market segments since they have special imaging and other equipment that interacts with the computer network. An IT services provider familiar with these setups will know how different systems interact with each other and can diagnose problems better when they arise.
Familiarity with state and federal HIPAA regulations: It is critical that your IT services provider is familiar with HIPAA data security rule as well as local state laws, and understands their responsibility and liability towards protecting confidential patient data.
Experience working with other similar sized healthcare practices: Different sized practices have different IT needs. A solo healthcare practice may have just one or two computers, while a medium sized practice could have a server, 5 to 10 desktops as well as laptops. The type and magnitude of the problems affecting these practices are very different. Hence having an IT services provider who has other healthcare clients similar in size to yours is a big plus. It shows that vendor has the knowledge, experience and organizational ability to deal with similar IT issues that may arise in your practice
Break-fix or Managed Services provider: Some IT providers are purely break-fix, meaning that they fix problems when they arise and charge you a fee for it. So if a computer is infected with a virus, they will charge you a fix amount to clean it up. Other service providers offer managed services. For a monthly retainer, they offer tiered service plans that include a combination of maintenance, management and repair services.
Service level agreements: Cleary understanding what the IT service provider is offering for your money is critical. There are different hourly rates for work done in regular hours as opposed to after-hours, weekends or emergency work. Additionally, the response time to address your issue will be different depending on whether you are on a managed service plan or not. Different tiers within a managed service plan have different response times which may result in longer workflow interruption. Healthcare practices need to be aware of this and should select the appropriate service level agreement that meets their needs.
A good IT services provider should take the time to sit down with you and understand your practice needs. Based on their experience working with similar practices as yours, they should suggest appropriate technology and/or service plans that will benefit you in the long run. They should provide a list of satisfied healthcare practices as their references that you can contact. Lastly, they should be willing to sign a Business Associate Agreement with you, acknowledging that they understand their responsibility to protect your confidential patient data and have administrative, physical and technical safeguards in place, as mandated by the HIPAA Security Rule.