What is the Best Computer Service Support for Your Small Healthcare Practice?
Many healthcare providers starting their first practice are ‘bootstrapping’ their business. They don’t have external investors in their business. Business owners are balancing what can they do themselves and what services to hire from someone else.
Today, we will strategize how to implement technology in your healthcare practice and have a look at the different options available to you to select the best computer service support for your small healthcare practice.
Should You Do It Yourself?
When starting your own healthcare practice, it can be tempting to try to save costs by trying your hand at a DIY approach for managing the hardware and software required to run a practice.
That might work for a while. But soon, you will want to look into your options for outsourcing some of this.
When outsourcing your information technology (IT) need, it’s important to remember that you are ultimately responsible for managing the collection, use, security and safeguards for all personal information that you collect and control.
Let me help you with some definitions, terminology, resources to help you manage your computer network system and to determine what services are best suited for your needs.
We’ll have a look at:
- Internet Service Providers
- Managed Service Providers VS Managed Security Service Providers
- Hardware as Service
- Value Added Resellers
- Cloud Service Providers
- Software As A Service (SaaS), and
- Remote Monitoring and Management Tools
Keep reading to find out the differences of these.
What is an Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
Internet service providers are likely the service on this list you are already most familiar with-–after all most of us deal with them in our personal lives, as well as in our professional lives.
These are companies which provide services which allow us to access the internet.
Unfortunately, some people assume that their ISP is also providing network security at the same time, which is simply not the case the majority of the time.
Something as simple as not changing the default password on your modem or wireless router can lead to vulnerabilities in your network. Right away, many DIY business owners are starting to feel the pinch about not knowing enough about IT to keep their practices secure.
There are some internet service providers also now offering managed service provider system as well. If you choose to go this route, ensure that you have a clear understanding about what they can and cannot do and documentation to show what exactly what is included in your fees.
Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP)
The definition of Managed Service Provider (MSP) is:
A MSP delivers services, such as network, application, infrastructure and security, via ongoing and regular support and active administration on customers’ premises, in their MSP’s data center (hosting), or in a third-party data center.
MSPs may deliver their own native services in conjunction with other providers’ services (for example, a security MSP providing sys admin on top of a third-party cloud IaaS). Pure-play MSPs focus on one vendor or technology, usually their own core offerings. Many MSPs include services from other types of providers. The term MSP traditionally was applied to infrastructure or device-centric types of services but has expanded.
Managed service providers are a great option for end users without the technical expertise required to manage their own networks.
If considering an MSP, you may consider referencing the Risk Considerations For Managed Service Provider Customers document put out by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency which outlines risk considerations organizations need to consider when they partner with a MSP.
MSP vs MSSP
Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) provide security monitoring and management services to organizations to ensure they are protected from cybersecurity threats.
The types of services MSSPs can offer include threat monitoring and intrusion detection, firewall management, patch management, endpoint protection, and penetration testing as examples.
An MSP ensures your IT systems are operational, but a MSSP offers true security as a service, ensuring your people and systems are safe, secure and compliant.
Managed Services are a good way for businesses to get a high-quality IT service at a predictable monthly cost, instead of having to manage everything themselves, in-house.
What is Hardware as a Service?
Hardware as a Service allows customers to outsource the procurement, installation and support of their IT hardware, at a fixed and predictable monthly cost. Companies who use Hardware as a Service benefit from knowing any issues with their hardware will be diagnosed and fixed by the provider, without having to guess at the cost of the repair.
This is a convenient way of getting the best hardware without having to spend much cash upfront. The service model is similar to leasing or licensing whereby a business obtains IT hardware from a company, and the terms are dictated by a Service Level Agreement (SLA). In the case of hardware breakdown or any hardware becoming obsolete, the hiring company is responsible for repairing or changing it. Hardware as a Service can be provided by a managed service company or as a stand-alone service provided to businesses who are looking to acquire IT hardware.
Typically, these vendors do not provide ongoing monitoring, updates, and patch support to your network.
What is a Value-added Reseller?
A value-added reseller takes existing hardware, adds features such as third-party software, and then sells it at a markup to the end user.
The biggest difference between VARs and MSPs is the term of their involvement with the end user. VARs generally operate on a transactional basis (per license or seat), or a short-term contract. By contrast, MSPs operate on longer-term annual or multi-year contracts, and the tenure of their relationship is open-ended.
What is a Cloud Service Provider (CSP)?
CSPs offer access to technology and infrastructure that they own. This may be part of your digital transformation plan.
You’ve likely heard of some of the more popular cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
If you choose to use a cloud service for storing information, you’ll want to do some due diligence to determine the security the service has in place, where the information is stored, and to avoid services which have servers outside of Canada. Even when you use a CSP, you are still responsible to ensure that your local computer environment is secure. This is referred to as a Shared Responsibility model.
What is the Software As A Service (SaaS) Business Model?
SaaS is a type of CSP. The vendor provides a software on their data centre and you remotely access the software and use it on your device. Examples of this includes Microsoft Office 365, Google Workspaces, and even some electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic dental record (EDR) service providers.
If you’re using a service such as this, the same security caveats which come with cloud services need to be considered such as where the servers storing the information are located.
Privacy, confidentiality, and security of personal information is a shared responsibility whether it is on your device or an outsourced service.
You must properly configure your SaaS so that it is properly securing your data, and communication between yourself and your vendor is critical to understanding the shared responsibility of securing the data.
As the end user, you are responsible for security ‘in’ the cloud. This includes the responsibility of:
- Collecting and maintaining the customer / PHI data
- Identity and access management (IAM)
- Application management
- Operating system and firewall on your devices
- Client side data encryption, data integrity, authentication
- Server-side encryption
- Network traffic management
Remote Monitoring and Management Tools (RMM)
Many MSPs, and some internal IT teams, use a remote monitoring and management tool (RMM). This is the software put on the workstations and servers, primarily. These tool report back to the RMM server and provides data so that the MSP can monitor and manage the system.
The tool allows the MSP to see issues such as:
- When software needs to be updated
- If computer needs to be rebooted
- That there was an error in a system log that needs to be addressed.
All of this happens behind the scenes and allows the MSP to manage your system remotely.
The issue with RMM is that the software has the ability to fully control your computers so these RMM tools need to be secured.
If not secured properly from internal threats as well as external threats and a bad guy is able to get into your MSP’s RMM, they now have access to every single client network—including yours!–that the MSP manages. And that is a bad, bad day!
Vet Your Vendors for the Best Computer Service Support Option
Most healthcare providers start with a DIY approach to their computer network. Over time, your needs will change. It is good practice to meet regularly with your vendors to re-visit your IT strategy.
Your best computer service support option during your start-up phase will likely be different as your business matures.
When you select the right outsourced service to support your healthcare practice, you will improve your practice management efficiency and privacy compliance.
Remember to vet the vendor before you enter into a service agreement and Information Management Agreement.
See the Practice Management Nuggets Podcast for Your Healthcare Providers, What Healthcare Practices Should Know About Vendor Vetting And Accountability | Episode #085 with guest Expert Donna Grindle for tips to help you with this step.
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