The Key Benefits and Potential Issues Involving Outsourced Healthcare IT That You Need to Know
Outsourcing refers to finding a third-party to deliver certain services. In the healthcare industry, outsourcing IT functions has been an acceptable alternative to an in-house IT staff for many years. As more and more healthcare providers are turning to managed IT services to meet their technology requirements, it is important to have a good understanding of the benefits and potential issues involved with outsourcing IT.
One of the established benefits of outsourcing healthcare IT functions is that it can significantly reduce the time it takes to implement new technology and industry best practices. IT providers are pressured to stay on top of the latest developments in order to remain competitive with others.
There is another aspect to the pros when it comes to time: 24/7 operation. Many healthcare employees who must interact with IT systems to do their job do not always follow the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule. Outsourcing makes it possible to offer around-the-clock IT staffing and support to respond to user needs anytime they appear. It also makes 24/7 management of IT feasible. In addition, having an outsourced IT staff can have a positive impact by reducing system downtime. You’ll have someone available to work on the system whenever it fails (e.g., midnight on a holiday).
Qualified IT Staff
Smaller healthcare providers and those in more rural geographic areas can’t always compete for the best talent in the IT field. It can sometimes be difficult to recruit qualified IT staff in these situations, but outsourcing IT functions free healthcare providers from this constraint. They can make use of the best talent regardless of geographic location and are able to obtain access to that talent at a lower price.
Focus Onsite Talent
In addition, it makes it possible to have an onsite team that focuses on items that are more critical to the company’s mission, such as improving patient satisfaction. The more boring, repetitive aspects of IT can be outsourced, allowing a healthcare establishment to better optimize their use of talent they have successfully recruited.
Flexibility and Scalability
Another benefit of outsourcing IT is that it’s much easier to scale up IT resources as needed, as well as respond to temporary fluctuations. Many vendors offer burst capacity options that are only paid for when they are needed. You can scale down during low-peak seasons for your business, but the ability to scale up is always there. That’s real flexibility.
Compliance is a major issue in healthcare. There are two major compliance-related pros to using a managed IT provider: more up-to-date knowledge of changing compliance landscape and the ability to conduct external audits without as much of a vested interest in the results.
However, there can be drawbacks related to compliance, too. If you outsource to someone outside of your region, they may not be familiar with the compliance regulations that need to be implemented. When the vendor is outside of your geographical boundaries, there can be potential complications with exporting data as well.
When it comes to costs, there is an abundance of benefits to hiring a healthcare IT managed service provider, including the following:
- Cheaper than having an on-site IT staff
- Reduces the capital investment required for on-site equipment
- Can help reduce costs that are passed on to patients
- Reduces the need for full-time IT employees
In addition, for smaller clinics there may not be funding for the infrastructure and security needed to support an on-site IT staff, making outsourcing an ideal solution.
Managing and Monitoring the Vendor
Without a reliable managed IT provider in the healthcare industry, especially in today’s climate of cybersecurity dangers, outsourcing IT functions could prove disastrous. However, it is still important to monitor the vendor. There is a critical need for someone to be the main resource who is responsible for interacting with each vendor. Failure to do so could have consequences.
If a healthcare group has an existing IT department, there is a strong probability that any on-site IT employees, whether officially or unofficially part of an IT department, may feel threatened by outsourcing. To minimize this, management needs to be honest and transparent about what is being outsourced and what is not.
There is often a gap between what the healthcare business is expecting and what the managed IT professional actually provides. In fact, one of the biggest issues in healthcare IT is unrealistic expectations on behalf of the healthcare leaders. This can result from a poorly defined scope of work that invariably leads to major issues later on. That is why it’s vital that the key performance indicators are established early. Communication is so important when successfully working with any vendor. In addition, a failure to honestly communicate existing problems when evaluating potential vendors will only lead to more unrealistic expectations.
Outsourcing healthcare IT can provide numerous benefits, including faster setup, 24/7 IT operations management, state-of-the-art implementation, and significant cost reduction. However, there are risks to existing IT staff morale, the danger of unrealistic expectations, and potential issues with compliance issues. Do your research and make sure that the company you’re considering understands HIPAA and other regulations now required in the healthcare industry. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the services your managed healthcare IT provider will deliver.