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Why Healthcare Providers Need Managed IT

Four challenges that healthcare providers face and how an MSP can help.

Whether you run a primary care practice, diagnostic imaging facility, or anything related to healthcare, technology is vital to your role in the industry. Between the programs and equipment supporting your facility's network and medical equipment, your role as a healthcare provider depends on these systems functioning optimally. Without proper IT support, your office can't operate efficiently and assist your patients, providers, insurance companies, and related parties.

Healthcare providers of all varieties and specialties frequently face obstacles related to efficiency, medical and IT equipment, compliance requirements, and cybersecurity threats. Just as patients depend on their providers for their well-being, providers should rely on a managed service provider (MSP) to ensure the best outcome for their patients, vendors, and partners. Learn about these four common challenges providers face and the benefits of IT support for healthcare organizations.

Nurses helping patients

1. Operational hurdles

Searching for, hiring, and training new employees is a common hurdle for businesses in all industries. The healthcare industry is no exception to this chronic struggle, which often extends to medical and administrative teams. Providers frequently face the challenges of staffing limitations related to unexpected turnover rates and anticipated provider relocations. Despite these issues, healthcare providers are expected to run efficiently for their staff and patients with whatever hours and personnel they have. Sam Blowes, Director of Solution Consulting at Bit-Wizards, emphasizes the role IT issues play in creating additional operational obstacles for already limited staff.

"Everyone's busy when their computer dies or has issues, and dedicated IT personnel are hard to come by when you're already dealing with front desk team members and nurse practitioners coming and going," he says. "Without redundant systems or experienced employees in place, your worst nightmare of needing to call IT in the middle of conducting an exam could easily become a reality."

Another factor that heightens the severity of an organization's operational concerns is the presence of any online care or information. While patient portals and online forms are automatically considered, telehealth services are valuable tools that can save providers and patients time. In-office operations easily impact any form of virtual medical information or care, and a lack of IT support for healthcare platforms can lead to significant headaches for everyone involved.

How can an MSP make healthcare providers more efficient?

Just as a doctor's office shouldn't depend on a single stethoscope, healthcare providers need to rely on redundant, resilient systems that function despite any operational challenges. With managed IT support, your organization can rest assured knowing your data and systems run like well-oiled machines for employees and patients. Partnering with an MSP connects you to IT support that's more cost-effective than cultivating an in-house team for providers of all specialties and scales.

An important trait to look for in an MSP is its team's responsiveness. In addition to introducing you to automations and shortcuts that help you make the most of every minute, an ideal managed IT provider's help desk facilitates round-the-clock care for backups, software patches, communication issues, and more. Brian Schlechter, Director of IT at Bit-Wizards, stresses that an effective MSP will extend these benefits and services to cover in-house and remote operations.

"An MSP is expected to help with the IT in your building, but managing devices outside your traditional network and VPN solutions is critical," he says. "Keeping your systems running securely and efficiently is vital to the safety and functionality of your organization's data, which needs to apply in a telehealth situation too."

Nurse checking patient records

2. Equipment issues

Technology is the lifeblood of any healthcare facility, from check-in desks to operating rooms. Between the hardware and software that support administrative functions and the medical equipment that relies on resilient networks, many issues can impact either type and cause a snowball effect of tech issues for both. Since medical devices are often prioritized due to their significantly higher price tags, Blowes believes outdated hardware is a likely culprit for overall tech headaches.

"With security and efficiency, outdated IT components are often the weakest link that can thwart any efforts you make to be more productive and protected," he explains. "Money often goes to the newest MRI or X-ray machine since medical equipment is essential for your business, so holding off on upgrading your Windows 7 computers is a seemingly smart decision that inevitably weakens your operations."

When the suspected cause of tech issues is related to medical machines, Blowes shares that working with vendors to troubleshoot equipment issues is an additional challenge unique to the healthcare industry. Because each machine is specialized and has its own vendor, it can be challenging to determine whether your IT infrastructure or a medical device is causing an issue. Without dedicated IT support, providers often have to wait on the phone with manufacturer support or hope for an internal IT breakthrough to resume treating their patients.

How can an MSP optimize your IT infrastructure?

A partnership with an MSP gives your institution's hardware, software, and overall IT systems a much-needed boost. Your managed IT provider can triage your entire inventory of devices, identify and resolve emergent issues, and create a plan for upgrading various elements at different stages. Just as a doctor knows the specifications of a patient's treatment options, Schlechter states that an MSP can provide vital information that supports any upcoming decisions.

"Outside of knowing what equipment or program needs to be replaced, your MSP should present the information needed to make a well-informed decision," he says. "You need to consider the cost of each replacement option, how that new element will affect preexisting components, and what benefits the different technical specifications offer."

Outside of supporting your foundational IT, both Blowes and Schlechter highlight that working with and managing your vendors is a top-tier service that high-quality MSPs like Bit-Wizards offer. Instead of having your staff work with a vendor's customer service department to fix an unknown issue, your MSP can make an initial assessment to determine whether your network is causing a problem. If the cause is isolated to a specific machine, they can work with a higher tier of the manufacturer's support team and leverage its technical background to provide an informed second opinion.

Doctor on computer

3. HIPAA compliance

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) affects any business in the U.S. that’s involved with the healthcare industry. Organizations that work with protected health information (PHI) must follow guidelines in collecting, handling, and storing it. Failing to do so can often cause a company's operations and finances to flatline. According to The HIPAA Journal, the 2024 penalty structure ranges from $137 to $68,928, with major fines and settlements ranging from $15,000 to over $1 million in 2023. Schlechter believes that the overwhelming cost of a HIPAA violation can cause providers to either embrace or avoid compliance.

"Major healthcare providers can take HIPAA fines like a slap on the wrist, but local and family-owned practices get hit much harder," he says. "Small- and medium-sized practices often fear violations to the point that they put off the task of becoming fully compliant and hope they're not found to have willfully or unknowingly committed violations."

While healthcare providers depend on IT to work more efficiently, health IT often poses a significant threat to their compliance. While major companies like athenahealth and Oracle offer HIPAA-compliant solutions that providers can leverage, issues frequently stem from poor data storage practices for files yet to be uploaded to a secure program. Scans that contain PHI can sit on a desktop during busy hours and pose a HIPAA violation, especially if those files are later forgotten and left unsecured.

How can an MSP help with HIPAA compliance?

Partnering with an MSP is an excellent way to help your organization avoid HIPAA violations and improve overall data storage practices. A gap assessment is one actionable step your MSP can help you take to achieve and maintain full compliance. Conducted by your MSP or a third party specializing in HIPAA compliance, a gap assessment reviews your systems and identifies areas that could constitute a violation. Similarly to patients seeking a second opinion to determine a diagnosis, Schlechter suggests working with another resource to conduct the assessment.

"The MSP version of a gap assessment is a penetration test, and we're adamant about the importance of getting a different set of eyes on compliance regulations for ourselves," he says. "At Bit-Wizards, we take the same attitude toward our clients and work with them as their partner to find a company with the right technical background to conduct an assessment."

Once your gap assessment is completed, an MSP can review those results and take immediate action to resolve each area of concern. In addition to resolving any compliance issues identified in a gap assessment, your MSP can help implement and train your team on data management best practices. By combining gap resolutions with practical IT approaches, MSPs offer a multifaceted solution to HIPAA compliance that secures patient information and helps providers avoid violations.

Hacker getting patient info

4. Cyberattacks

Bad actors frequently target healthcare providers through cyberattacks and data breaches, and the events of the first half of 2024 reinforce this unfortunate truth. Change Healthcare, a payment-processing company with UnitedHealth Group, was targeted by a ransomware attack that leaked an estimated one-third of Americans' PHI by accessing a system that didn't use multi-factor authentication (MFA). Ascension, a major non-profit healthcare provider, was forced to use downtime procedures and redirect care from its 140 hospitals due to a ransomware attack. Despite these national providers occupying headlines, Blowes encourages healthcare institutions of all sizes to recognize the dangers of cyberattacks.

"Many smaller medical providers think they're safe because they're less visible compared to the normal targets, and it's imperative to understand that this idea is the opposite of reality," he says. "Small and medium-sized businesses have protections proportional to their operations, so bad actors go after them because they're often less protected and have more vulnerabilities."

Ransomware and other common cyberattack trends can negatively impact your business in so many ways. While your financial and operational health are negatively affected, losing patient and customer trust is often the most profound consequence. Providers at the national level usually survive cyberattacks due to their financial resources and a general lack of alternative care. With limited funding and significant competition, local healthcare organizations are likelier to close due to financial issues or patient distrust.

How can an MSP fortify your cybersecurity?

Partnering with an MSP equips your business with a proactive, multilayered cybersecurity approach that mitigates risks and prepares for potential attacks. Outside of following HIPAA requirements, a key element of your MSP's approach to cybersecurity is ensuring your operations are resilient. While alert monitoring, employee training, and other preventative measures are critical to fortifying your resiliency, Blowes says there's one way to guarantee you survive a cyberattack.

"The only surefire way to defeat ransomware is by using backups and storing your data elsewhere so you can restore it, avoid downtime, and resume normal operations—all without paying a ransom," he explains. "If you have a top-of-the-line provider like Bit-Wizards, they'll take it a step further and back up your desktops in addition to your essential systems."

Zero-trust network access (ZTNA) is another increasingly prevalent measure among MSPs responsible for protecting clients' PHI and other sensitive information. At its core, zero-trust IT requires all users on the business and customer side to confirm they are who they say they are. Every session and access attempt is treated with no trust until proven otherwise, adding an extra layer to an already stacked security approach. Your MSP can implement zero-trust systems and protocols to ensure your data and patients are as protected as possible.

IT help talking to client

Achieve better IT health with Bit-Wizards

In the face of so many challenges and threats, it's critical to find an MSP that provides IT support for healthcare-specific challenges and genuinely cares about the health and longevity of your business. Your MSP should have a finger on the pulse of IT industry best practices and trends that may impact you as a healthcare provider. More importantly, the ideal MSP will treat you as a partner and go above and beyond to provide the IT and overall business solutions your organization needs to thrive.

Whether your practice is in excellent or rough shape, Managed IT Services (MITS) from Bit-Wizards gives you access to the best treatment for your IT. Just as you care for your patients' well-being, we strive to serve our clients as trusted advisors and ensure they're equipped with effective, resilient solutions. Our Wizards know that each of our clients excels in what they do, and we're there every step of the way to protect their efforts from everyday tech mishaps and cybersecurity threats.

Ready to prescribe magical managed IT for your practice? Contact us today.

Author

Natalie Ewing, Content Writer
Natalie C. Ewing

Content Writer