Hospital IT staff members are in a tough position.
No matter how large or small an IT organization may be, one thing seems to be a constant: They’re going to be asked to do as much as they can with fewer resources. And that’s when IT leaders should consider leaning on third-party services designed specifically to meet the rapidly evolving needs of the healthcare industry. Those services can be integrated into existing systems to provide safe, secure and more cost-effective solutions to help patients, clinicians and everyone in between.
Where to Start
Let’s look at two very typical healthcare IT challenges.
First, the vast majority of individual practices, clinics and hospitals rely on electronic health records, or EHRs. Patients, clinicians and administrators can view test results, schedule appointments and communicate with each other whether at home or in their doctor’s office; however, many EHR systems prove difficult to integrate into an existing network.
And second: Many healthcare organizations are working while mergers and acquisitions take place, sometimes several through relatively brief spans of time, meaning that two or more totally different systems must come together to handle everything from patient record applications to data. Even the task of migrating employee email addresses from one domain to another can be surprisingly complex.
Third-party vendors address those specific challenges, and more, on behalf of their customers every day. They can design complex systems, install them and provide support, whether just at launch or on an ongoing basis, through onsite consultants or one-day training sessions. Overall, third-party IT service providers allow transitions to run smoothly and ensure proper infrastructure is in place and all related decisions support the healthcare organization’s IT needs and broader patient or business goals.
Make Sense of Choices
Choosing the right partner requires IT and other healthcare leaders to get answers to certain questions. I want to share just a few of the things that I try to help healthcare teams find out before choosing a vendor:
- What are your current needs?
- What do you expect your needs will be through the next five to 10 years?
- What is the size of your current network?
- How complex is it?
- What kinds of interdependencies does it support?
- Are any of your applications cloud-based, or hosted by a service?
- Do you host the majority of your own data?
- How many users do you anticipate?
- What levels of access will they need?
Take IT to the Next Level
Mergers, acquisitions and technology upgrades all usually come along with big IT changes. Organizations that have huge expenditures on the horizon — and, likely, lean staffs — will find that third-party vendors are ideal for filling critical IT service gaps, such as:
Security: This represents one of the greatest concerns of healthcare CIOs. Mitigating complex security risks that constantly change typically requires providers to purchase applications and modernize networks.
Building and upgrading networks: Whether an organization looks to add more wireless capabilities, processing power or data storage, third-party vendors can be tasked with designing a system that can handle current and expected peak demands.
Merging and transferring systems and information: Hospital systems and clinics typically experience multiple technology changes as they merge or move from one system to another. Everything from patient health records to accounting systems must be merged, without interruptions to staff or patient services.
Training: IT staff and support usually require training on new applications, and many third-party vendors offer or can arrange excellent training programs as part of their overall scope of work.
I know that all of the challenges I’ve outlined here may seem overwhelming, especially to smaller IT teams, but third-party service providers are available to fill in when budgets or staffing fall short. You can learn more about working with third-party vendors in CDW’s recent white paper, “Healthcare Technology and the Patient Journey.”
Hundreds of vendors are out there offering a vast menu of options. Armed with a vision and strategic thinking about just what it is you need, those service providers can help your organization become more agile and gain the most out of the technology in which you’re investing so much.