Medical and dental practices, just like any other organization, rely on their IT network to run their business effectively. But there’s a problem: many clinics inadvertently wind up working with sub-standard IT companies who are either unwilling or unable to give them the services that they need. This unfortunate state of affairs can lead to all kinds of problems, including frequent network downtime, poor patient experience, lost data, HIPAA compliance issues and many others. Something as seemingly insignificant as the choice of IT Services Company, therefore, can have a profound effect on the profitability and brand of a particular clinic.
IT companies can be unresponsive for a variety of reasons. In this post, we’re going to take a look at where medical and dental practices can go wrong in their choice of IT provider, and what they can do about it. Here’s why your IT company is unresponsive.
Some IT companies are in the business of making as much money as they can in as short a time as possible, and don’t spend enough time getting to know you as a client or understanding your needs.
Worse still, medical and dental practices are, in the views of many, easy pickings for this kind of approach. The average physician or dentist knows little about the computer systems on which they depend. Most of the time, they have to hand over IT management to a third-party provider without knowing whether they’re actually any good or not. For most, it’s a shot in the dark.
What’s more, the question of the quality of a particular IT service provider rarely crosses the mind of the average medical provider. The expectation is that one is just as good as another, and so the final choice doesn’t really matter.
Unfortunately, this isn’t true. IT companies are just like people: some care about the quality of their work; others will do as little as they can get away with and still get paid. You want the former, not the latter.
Of course, not all IT companies are in the business of doing as little work for as much money as possible. Some do genuinely want to solve your IT issues: they just don’t know how to do it.
The needs of medical and dental practices overlap with regular businesses partially, but not entirely. Those in the health sector, therefore, need IT professionals with specific expertise in relevant areas, like electronic health records, and regulatory compliance with HIPAA. It may be the case that your IT provider is letting you down simply because they don’t know how to solve your problems. It’s not something that they’ve come into contact with before, and they’re learning on the fly.
IT support providers make the most money when they scale their operations across a range of clients. The more people they can get on retainer, the more revenue that they can collect.
While this model can work well, problems emerge when more of their clients need help than they can service. All of a sudden that same-day support that you had at the start of your contract is no longer available, and you have to wait several working days to get help.
The damage that this sort of thing can do to your practice is substantial. You might not be able to access scheduling software, patient records, or give telemedicine appointments. It’s a disaster - and one you want to avoid.
Running a tight ship as an IT service provider requires a considerable degree of know-how. You have to understand how to prioritize and take precautions to prevent your technicians from becoming overwhelmed with customer issues.
Many IT service providers, however, don’t have the managerial expertise to pull this off. Instead, they deal with customer issues as they arise, without any strategy in place for making the best use of their time. They could be the most customer-focused IT provider in the world, but if they’re overwhelmed with customer issues, they can't help you. And that’s not good enough.
So what’s the solution to this problem? How can medical and dental practices ensure that they get quality IT support?
Generic IT companies tend to have a lot of experience working with accountants, law firms, insurance companies, and retailers, but not with healthcare and medical offices. The problem with this, as we discussed above, is that healthcare organizations have highly specific computing needs. Slapping a business-based IT approach on a medical facility won’t yield great results.
The great thing about specialist IT companies is that they understand the most common issues that medical clinics face and can rattle through a menu of solutions fast. When problems do come up, they’re able to deal with them quickly because they've seen similar things before.
The next thing to do is to make sure that you get a “service level agreement” or SLA with your provider. This document sets out what the IT provider must do and commits it to provide you with a particular level of service in a given time frame. If it doesn’t, it’s broken its contract with you and you’re entitled to part ways.
Not all IT service providers will proactively offer you an SLA. These are the ones to avoid. You want a partner who has the confidence to commit to a minimum standard of service and provide you with the IT support that your office needs.
If you’re on speaking terms with other healthcare institutions in your local area, then it’s good policy to ask them about the IT service providers that they use. Other doctors’ offices and dental practices will be able to give you a sense of the kind of experience you can expect working with a particular company. If there are problems with a specific provider, they’ll soon let you know.