The Role of Managed IT Services in Healthcare

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Topics: ProSuite

As a healthcare provider, technology plays a key role in everything you do, and it’s obvious that you need professional-grade support for that technology.

But, finding good help isn’t always easy.

So, we’ve put together a guide to help you think about how tech support can play a role in your organization and how you can go about getting the best support available.


Managed IT Services

To begin with, what are managed IT services?

What does this term really mean, and how, specifically, does it apply to healthcare?

At the most basic level, managed IT services is a group of support functions you get by contracting with an IT provider.

There are a few important components baked into this definition.

First, managed IT services come from a third-party provider.

The term does not apply to anything you run in-house.

If you have an IT department, the services you get from your own payroll would be supplemented or supported by managed IT.

Second, managed IT applies to a whole set of services.

You can get just about any support you need from the provider.

Options range from help desk support to strategic planning, cyber security, equipment management, and more.

Whatever you need in terms of tech support can fall under the umbrella of managed IT.

The third aspect built into this concept of managed IT is adaptability.

We haven’t defined a specific set of services.

We’ve only identified that you can get what you need under a third-party contract, and that’s really the idea.

Managed IT providers can and should present you with a range of options, with the ability to customize your service package in a way that works for you.


How They Support the Healthcare Industry

While we’ve covered the basics of managed IT, we still need to get into what that really looks like in a healthcare space.

Some aspects of IT are universal.

You need support that keeps your technology functioning.

Security is important for any business or industry.

Professional advice and planning prove invaluable for anyone.

Specific to healthcare, managed IT hones in on a couple of things in addition to providing the generic basics.

Your provider can help you maintain compliance (particularly when it comes to HIPAA), and they can help you better serve your patients.

You’ll see how this manifests in several ways as we go through all of the essential services pertinent to health care.


Enhancing Cybersecurity in Healthcare With IT Services

Cybersecurity is one of those generic services that every business needs, but that means healthcare providers need it too.

Cyber threats can bring down any workplace.

Additionally, they threaten the integrity of your records and the privacy of your patients.

A little later, we’ll talk about how that interacts with HIPAA more specifically, but for now, let’s cover cybersecurity essentials.

If you want cybersecurity, you need prevention, monitoring, and response from your managed IT provider.


Addressing Healthcare Cyber Threats

To start with, you address cyber threats by auditing your existing IT ecosystem.

While formal audits are common in managed IT, the process does not have to be formal if there’s a reason to avoid such an outlook.

Regardless, your IT team needs a clear picture of what technology you have and how you use it.

From that picture, they can look for vulnerabilities.

As they assess the vulnerabilities, they can construct a plan that helps you use your technology safely and responsibly.

Sometimes, this requires you to make changes to the specific technology you use.

In almost all cases, you and your organization will have to adjust how you use technology.

Cybersecurity best practices are often as powerful (if not more) as any security software or system.


Continuous Monitoring and Management

Once you have a good cybersecurity plan in place, you need consistent monitoring and management.

No cybersecurity plan is foolproof.

Continuous monitoring spots threats early and helps you prevent and mitigate fallout when your organization is the target of malicious behavior.

Paired with continuous monitoring is the response plan.

There’s little point in spotting a threat if you can’t take action once the threat is identified.

For that, your managed IT partner should spell out for you what the response looks like, all of the pertinent roles to play, and what you should expect going forward.

The language here is a little generic because responses have to vary according to the threat.

If someone tries and fails to reset a password in your system, that’s usually an easy remedy.

If an attacker manages to lock out all of your data with ransomware, then you're facing a larger response and more pain points along the way.

The bottom line is that your IT provider should be prepared for the full range of threats, and you should know what to expect in any of those kinds of situations.


Supporting HIPAA Compliance With IT Services

So, planning, monitoring, and responding form up the core of cybersecurity, but none of that touched on the specifics of HIPAA.

As you already know, HIPAA requirements are unforgiving.

Mistakes in this area can lead to hefty fines, and you can even face jail time for severe enough infractions.

How does your managed IT provider fit into all of this?


Role in Ensuring Compliance

For starters, you need a provider that is steeped in HIPAA knowledge.

Any competent IT provider can lead you to good general cybersecurity, but you have to meet clear regulatory mandates as a healthcare provider.

If your managed IT provider doesn’t know those regulations well, it’s a recipe for disaster.

An informed provider will help you with compliance in a couple of ways.

For starters, when they run their audit, they’ll take special interest in how you manage access and control of patient files.

Since the bulk of HIPAA revolves around patient privacy, your provider will ensure that you are restricting access correctly in order to maintain compliance.

Hardware and software audits spot and resolve unintended infractions to keep you out of trouble.


Compliance-related IT Services

Even if your foundations are good, cyber attacks can violate patient privacy, and that can put you at risk.

Compliance-related IT services take extra measures to keep files secure.

This includes file security services, backup services, audits, and disaster recovery services.

Again, the specifics vary because so many scenarios are possible, but the gist is simple enough.

Compliance-related IT services provide traditional security support while emphasizing techniques and tools that help you keep in line with HIPAA


Cost Management and Efficiency With IT Services

While that covers security and compliance, a healthcare provider needs more from their IT.

Next up is cost management, and this is one way where IT services can help you improve patient outcomes.

Any time you can save money on technology and tech services, you gain resources that you can put back into patient care.


Reducing Operational Costs

The first way your managed IT provider can help you control costs is by auditing your system (and yes, this audit can combine with your security audit).

When they have a full list of all of your hardware and software, along with vendors and use cases, they can attack inefficiencies with vigor.

Almost inevitably, they will find choke points in your workflows that relate directly to technology.

With consolidation, targeted upgrades, software switches, and workflow management, they can help you resolve issues while spending less money now and over the long run.

An easy example highlights the idea.

Suppose you have multiple providers in a single facility.

Regularly, they need to print documents for patients, ranging from consent forms to test results.

Each provider has an office with a printer, but you find that supporting different printers across different providers in a variety of setups actually wastes a lot of time, energy, paper, ink, and money in general.

Your managed IT provider can centralize your printing, reducing the amount of support you need for printers while putting every office on a more efficient system.

You save time and money across the facility, both in the near and long term.


Improving IT Infrastructure

Reducing costs through efficiency is only half the equation, though.

Your IT provider can also help improve your infrastructure.

This can help with workflows, allowing you to see patients faster while providing better care overall.

An easy example is with a network upgrade.

Many offices have dated networking infrastructure.

Your provider can map out a cost-effective upgrade that helps all of your technology communicate faster within the office.

It can help you with patient check-in, records management, follow-up communications, inter-office communications, and more.

While you are investing in your IT infrastructure, it’s a targeted investment that helps the office run better.

You can ultimately save money on day-to-day operations, and you might be able to serve more patients daily.

The result is better for you and the patients.


Selecting a Managed IT Service Provider

Managed IT providers offer a lot in the realm of healthcare.

You know you need good support, so the natural question arrives.

How do you pick the right provider?

Let’s break that down into two sections, criteria you can analyze and questions you should ask any prospective provider.


Criteria for Selection

The criteria are pretty simple. Make sure any provider you consider can meet this minimum checklist:

  • Vertical knowledge. They need to understand HIPAA as well as healthcare workflows and needs. This is the most important consideration.
  • Sufficient support. You need support when your facilities are open. That might mean 24/7 support, or it might mean traditional 9 to 5 support.
  • On-site work. You need a provider who can physically come to your location to resolve issues.
  • Proactive services. Cyber monitoring, auditing, and strategic planning all fit in this category. Make sure they’re proactively taking care of your needs.
  • Hardware and software. Some IT providers specialize in one or the other. You need an omni-specialist.
  • Vendor management. They can help you keep track of your technology vendors. This would include internet service, software subscriptions, and the like.
  • Accountability. Lastly, what happens when things go wrong? How do they take care of you? They should have insurance and resolution statements in their contracts that protect you from IT problems.

If other, specific criteria matter to you, feel free to add them to your list, but don’t settle for a provider that falls short on any area above.


Questions To Ask

The criteria checkers are an important place to start, but at the end of the day, you want an IT provider who can work well with your organization.

To get to that, it helps to ask some grounding questions.

These questions are designed to help you get to know a prospect’s style to see if they’re a good fit:

  • How many clients do you have?
  • Can I talk to them about their services?
  • How do you structure contracts?
  • How can you customize your contracts to support my organization?
  • What guarantees do you offer with your services?
  • How do you resolve contract or support disputes?
  • How much of your service is onsite vs remote?
  • Can you teach things to my staff?
  • How do you plan for and resolve emergencies?
  • Who will be my point of contact?
  • How many people will work on my account?
  • How do you manage access to my technology?

These questions should get you started.

Feel encouraged to ask any more that come to mind.


Getting Started With MainSpring

MainSpring is a managed IT provider with years of vertical experience in healthcare support and HIPAA compliance.

Contact us to start a conversation and see exactly how we can help you.