Finding the Right Managed IT Service Provider

There’s been a lot of interest in my previous post about Managed IT Services versus Break and Fix IT services. In fact, you should read not only my post, but also some of the well done comments on that post as well. A nice discussion has taken place that people looking at IT support for their EMR or even their clinic in general should read it.

Beyond the discussion of whether you should go with a managed IT service or just bringing in IT support when something’s broken, I want to expand the discussion a little bit to talk about how a doctor’s office can find a great IT provider. Basically, what factors can a doctor look at when evaluating the various IT providers? What types of things should they be looking for in an IT provider? Is there a base set of “services” that pretty much every IT provider offers and what “other services” might set one provider apart? And for the “base services” how can you know who’s really great at providing the IT support and who’s only mediocre?

I look forward to reading your comments.

Also, I’m thinking that maybe I should create a list of Managed IT Service Providers that specialize in supporting healthcare IT (EMR in particular). Basically, I’m thinking a page similar to my EMR and EHR vendors page. Although, I’ve been considering a small redesign of that page as well. Possibly selling premium position on that page (and eventually the IT services page). Something cheap like $50/year for a premium posting. Just a thought. Let me know if you think it’s a good idea or not.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

12 Comments

  • John… Good stuff on the previous topic and your note here. Had a few thoughts as relates to a managed IT services provider and EHRs…

    -What if the IT services provider … offered EHR selection, implementation, training, and maintenance support to small to medium practices, community and specialty clinics, or labs?

    -What if the IT services provider … offered data storage support to its clients along with providing network support for regional information exchange connectivity

    -What if the IT services provider … offered support to the clinics assisting them with datg input of treatment records, radiology reports and images, and other documents important to populate the practices EHR?

    A relatively small managed IT service provider with a specific health services orientation could leverage its expertise and the currency it will gain working with select EHR vendors and create a significant advantage for its clients.

  • Interesting suggestions from Don B. above – our EMR solutions actually do offer all of the things he mentioned – we try to be the One-Stop-Shop for our customers so that they do not have to deal with many vendors. This has proven to be important to the practices since they have very little time (and desire) to deal with this stuff.

    The most important function of Managed Services is to be pro-active versus re-active. It should provide constant monitoring of antivirus and anti-scumware systems to make sure they are operational and keeping up to date with the latest pattern files. Secondly, keeping up to date with patches and updates to the operating system to close any security holes and prevent system crashes. It should provide timely and routine maintenance on these systems to keep them working at top efficiency. The goal is to provide a consistent computing experience day after day. CSI (our company) provides our clients with a “light switch computer experience” – so what does that mean? When you turn on a light you expect it to come on 99 percent of the time-if it won’t turn on, usually it is a quick fix-change the bulb and if you are pro-active you have a couple spare bulbs on the shelf. Same with computers and systems that are pro-actively maintained-they should just work and if they break it should be a quick fix that we were prepared for with data backups, spare parts or equipment, a good support plan, etc.

    However, we all know that system do get “sick” and will need care, this is where having the ability to quickly connect remotely and remedy the situation in as little time as possible keeps that consistent computing experience humming along.

  • DonB,
    Many of them are actually doing this. In fact, I’ve had lengthy discussions with a number of them since they come to my blog for information for doing an initiative like you describe. The only exception from what I read on your list is the IT support for a regional health network. I haven’t seen many of the IT firms really participating much in this. Still too early for most of those networks I think.

  • The base services offered should include:
    * Both onsite and help desk support
    * An SLA (service level agreement) that meets the response time needs of the practice, and the managed service provider should submit a report of the actual versus contracted response times to the practice at least each quarter.
    * Have demonstrated competancies in all areas of IT support that the practice would need, (networking, email, workstations, servers, backup & disaster recovery, mobile devices, etc.). Competancies would be demonstrated through formal training by the MSP staff and references that are checked through due diligence.
    * Offer strategic consulting to help direct the practice with their future IT spend.
    * (VERY IMPORTANT) The support engineers should go through customer service training!

    The health care specific services:
    * A dedication to the health care vertical via membership in local practice management and physician organizations.
    * An established HIPAA compliance program
    * Support staff familiar with practice workflows and at least a few EHRs
    * EHR selection support (after all, the MSP is an IT company and they should have some basic knowledge of how to select software).

    I agree with Tim’s comment above that the MSP should be proactive. The goal of the MSP should be to make the practice feel like they have a “Maytag repairman” supporting them — in other words, no drama. Physicians have enough things to worry about — they shouldn’t have to worry about IT.

    I don’t think it is necessary for the MSP to actually sell an EHR. With so many EHRs out there, each practice should be able to pick which EHR they want; the MSP should act as the practice’s IT department and work with the EHR vendor to provide support.

  • I’m seeing a lot of good stuff about EMR/EHR support in the comments but one of the most important things is completely missing from this discussion, the hardware.

    I feel like if you’ve invested in a quality EMR then software support should be in the bag, it’s hardware, network, and additional OS support that a practice ought to be worried about when considering an IT solution. Maybe it’s my eyes but I don’t see anyone talking about that part in the comments.

  • I think adding a page devoted to Managed IT Service Providers that specialize in working with medical practices and EMR would be a great idea. I’d be interested in advertising on that page as well.

  • Jonathan,
    I agree that the IT service provider doesn’t have to sell the EHR. In fact, in some respects it’s better if they don’t sell it. However, it is beneficial if they are that familiar with a specific EMR. Basically, the technical details that are needed for a specific EMR’s setup. Sure, there are lots of similarities, but lots of little differences (ie. a mapped drive, or browser preference). If your IT provider already knows these things that’s a good thing for an office.

  • Andrew,
    The hardware is an important part. How do you propose that doctor’s offices know which IT providers are good at selecting the right hardware for them?

  • When you have an “IT Service Providers” page, I would love to know how to find it (URL) because our clients are constantly asking for references to IT service providers specializing in medium to small medical practices.
    – Russ –

  • I agree with DonB. Implementing managed services in healthcare will act as a backbone for IoT for healthcare services. Imagine clinic services anywhere using cloud services….it will be a blast.

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