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IT Services for Your Practice – In-House or Outsource?

Previously I wrote about outsourcing your IT services support as well as how to hire an IT director. But one question that I am commonly asked is, “How do I decide whether to keep IT services in-house or whether they should be out-sourced?”

Electronic medical records systems have become an integral part of the practice of medicine and having someone with IT expertise in your corner is no longer a luxury but a necessity. But for most medical practices, this decision is strictly a monetary one. Still, there are more issues to consider than just budget.

Why you should have IT in-house

  • You are completely clueless about technology and need someone at your beck and call
  • You want someone with particular expertise in your specific EMR software
  • You want someone who has specific knowledge of your medical specialty
  • The physicians in your practice want their daily IT needs handled on an expeditious basis
  • Your practice can afford to pay a market salary and benefits for a full-time IT person

Why you should outsource IT services

  • You cannot afford to hire a full-time IT person
  • You have a small practice and you consider yourself ‘tech-savvy’
  • You are using a web-based EMR system and have a minimal IT infrastructure
  • You need or require 24/7 support
  • The complexity of your practice demands redundancy in the support services
  • There is a large volume of basic, mundane tasks that have to be handled on a daily basis

Why you should do both

Another option to consider: the hybrid model. Whether you decide to out-source IT services or bring in your own full-time person, a concern in either case is the transfer of knowledge. If you have a full-time IT employee, that person’s fund of knowledge – about your practice, about your EMR system, about your processes – walks out the door with him or her. Even if they are meticulous about documenting all of their processes, this can still be a devastating loss. While this risk can be lessened with an out-source firm, there is still the potential for loss if their services are terminated and you have to hire another firm.

By having both, you could build in enough redundancies that your practice can be protected in the event of a staffing change. The out-sourcing can provide around-the-clock monitoring of your IT infrastructure and handle basic, day-to-day operational issues such as computer trouble-shooting, password resets, and printer repairs. Your IT employee can oversee the out-sourcing firm while at the same time looking out for the best interests of the practice, providing physicians with prompt, personalized attention, and concentrating his or her efforts on more specialized work such as EMR templates, Meaningful Use issues, and the like.

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