The question is no longer "How can information technology improve healthcare?" It has become "What's the best way to manage information technology to improve healthcare?"
We know the power and potential of health IT. The challenge is to execute on both, but that has become increasingly difficult for small-to-mid-sized practices that rely on in-house teams. That's why it increasingly makes sense to outsource information technology management.
We've identified nine of the reasons why small and mid-sizes practices should consider outsourcing their health IT to an experienced and healthcare-focused managed services provider (MSP).
1. Prepare for the shortage of IT professionals
Even if you have a top-notch internal IT team, will they be there tomorrow? We're facing a national shortage of health IT professionals. HIT Consultant recently called it a "problem morphing into a crisis." Simply put, supply outpaces demand.
A 2019 HIMSS survey found hospitals expected to increase their IT work staff by, on average, 63%. Roughly 60% percent said they had vacancies. This reflects the overall demand for IT professionals and lack of qualified professionals to fill them. The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates health IT positions will grow 8% between now and 2029, significantly faster than the growth of other careers. In particular, demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to dramatically outpace supply.
By outsourcing to a managed services provider, the stress about whether you will have the necessary IT staff to support your practice goes away. If your organization intends to grow, the MSP can increase its services and support to accommodate this growth.
2. Access a body of expertise and experience
By contracting with a healthcare managed services provider, you will have access to seasoned experts who understand current developments and closely track future trends.
Whoever manages your information technology must stay current on changes in areas including HIPAA, security regulations, cybersecurity threats, and new healthcare technology, just to name a few. It's a lot to keep up with, and it's not a job for one or two people. You need a team of healthcare IT specialists.
3. Optimize your team's time
By outsourcing health IT services, you offload many management and administrative tasks, freeing up office staff to focus more on the clinical, financial, and operational work that must be accomplished. This can increase staff productivity, enhance employee satisfaction, improve the bottom line, strengthen quality of care (discussed next), and even reduce turnover.
4. Improve patient care
Managed healthcare IT services allow you to better run your practice and that, in turn, improves patient care.
By offloading the health IT burden, your clinical team has more time to devote to patients. As we outlined in a previous blog, outsourcing your health IT function reduces burnout and leads to improved patient care. Partnering with an MSP allows you to focus more on the patient relationship. And as a new Annals of Family Medicine study suggests, improving the quality of the patient/clinician relationship correlates with patient outcomes.
5. Better ensure data security today
As cybercriminals become more cunning, healthcare organizations are having a harder time keeping sensitive data safe and protecting patient privacy. According to government data, there were 510 reported healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records in 2019. That's a nearly 200% increase from 2018. Put another way, the records of more than 12.5% of the population of the United States — or about one out of every eight people — were exposed, impermissibly disclosed, or stolen, HIPAA Journal reports.
Expansions in remote working and virtual care have opened new doors for cybercriminals. More data across more locations increases the risk of data being saved in insecure locations, such as localized folders.
Patients are not the only ones who suffer from data breaches. The fines can be devastating for the offending organization. Consider this recent announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services: A Georgia orthopedic was fined 1.5 million to settle potential HIPAA violations after a hacker accessed the personal health information of more than 200,000 patients.
Outsourcing information technology management can help you keep patient data safe, maintain HIPAA compliance. and reduce--or even eliminate--potential liability.
6. Prepare for the data security changes of tomorrow
Outsourcing your health IT can also help you prepare for a future where even more data will need protection. We've previously discussed how the likes of digital biometric devices, pharmacogenomics, and artificial intelligence will inundate practices with data. Managing that data will be difficult enough. Protecting it may be close to impossible for an in-house IT team. Rules are even emerging that could require healthcare providers to protect data not currently covered by HIPAA.
HIPAA generally doesn't cover health data generated by third-party apps chosen by patients — unless the app is somehow connected to the provider. But as Health IT Security reports, industry leaders are working to develop rules and standards to protect health information that is not protected by HIPAA. These aren't requirements you'll need to meet tomorrow, but your organization needs to prepare for that potential today.
7. Stay nimble
Many healthcare practices find it difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and change in healthcare. Wearables, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, virtual care, and other innovations will bring dramatic improvements to healthcare while adding to your IT burden. But perhaps nothing illustrates the need for agility than the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated changes such as the sudden shift to a remote workforce and adoption and/or expansion of telehealth. A healthcare MSP gives you the ability to pivot and adapt quickly to changes affecting your IT.
8. Gain 24/7 access to support
To run a successful practice these days often requires access to IT support immediately, with that need sometimes falling outside of standard office hours. You likely can't staff in such a manner to gain access to on-demand and around-the-clock IT expertise. A managed services provider can offer that to you.
9. Improve disaster recovery
A fire. An earthquake. A flood. A cybersecurity breach. What if one of these or any other disaster strikes your practice? How quickly can you respond and recover? The right MSP will help you craft an IT disaster response and business continuity plan and provide backup and recovery solutions to help get you back on your feet fast.
The Case for Information Technology Management Outsourcing
Partnering with a company that provides managed IT services for healthcare means your practice will be in a better position to ensure its information technology can adapt and meet ever-changing needs. The right healthcare MSP can come in and strengthen your health IT operations and then work with you to come up with a scalable strategic plan that will help your practice successfully navigate the future.
So much is uncertain in healthcare, but one thing is clear: Information technology management is not going to become any easier. By partnering with a healthcare MSP, you will better protect your patients, your practice, and your bottom line.