Dec 14 2017

4 Ways Outsourcing Can Help Improve Healthcare IT Operations

Managed IT services can provide healthcare organizations with the right mix of security, scalability, reliability and flexibility that they need to innovate.

Healthcare organizations, already under pressure to maintain their own IT services in a tight budget environment, are increasingly looking to outsource a portion of their IT operations.

In fact, a recent Black Book poll of nearly 1,600 hospital executives, including 807 CIOs, found that 34 percent of responding organizations expected to increase their current levels of IT outsourcing over the next two years, while 58 percent planned to maintain their current amount of IT outsourcing through 2019. Moreover, the overwhelming majority (81 percent) of those that had outsourced IT operations were already seeing a return on investment.

Additionally, 84 percent of respondents noted that outsourcing operations, including the hosting of mission-critical applications and patient data, had indeed increased efficiencies and reduced costs, proving “transformative to their businesses.”

This is because, particularly for smaller healthcare organizations, adopting managed services can help them avoid investing in costly equipment and staff.

“Even if an organization wanted to set up its own data center, deploy its own [Electronic Health Record] EHR servers and manage it, it’s difficult and expensive to recruit and staff people to do that,” Rob Havasy, senior director of health information systems at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), told Healthcare IT News. “It’s not as much of a problem in big cities like Boston or many places out in California, but for large swaths of the U.S., it is high-cost labor to bring people on to keep a critical application up and running and get everybody up to speed on it. For much of the country, outsourcing that is a viable strategy.”

Outsourcing IT services provides also organizations with the ability to stay current as technology evolves. Because managed services providers work with a broad base of customers, they can leverage their size and scale by either investing in new technologies or upgrading existing technologies. Better yet, they can implement new techniques more rapidly than an in-house team.

Think about an IT team in a midsized hospital that has 20 staff members. That department may be responsible for operating 150 different technologies, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the IT team to maintain subject matter expertise on every technology in the organization. But outsourced-service providers can typically afford to have multiple staff members master each technology, allowing the provider to maintain technical proficiency.

1. Fortify Security with Outsourced IT

In the second quarter of 2017, a McAfee report found that the healthcare was the sector hardest hit by cybersecurity attacks, thanks to a 67 percent increase in malware.

When it comes to protecting vital systems and data from hackers, outsourcing can help. All too often, healthcare organizations find themselves operating with critical security vulnerabilities left unpatched. For example, an attacker may compromise a specific service, and only in the wake of the breach does the organization realize the state of disrepair that exists. IT leaders then find themselves faced with an unpalatable situation in which they are rapidly hiring staff to modernize and support the damaged infrastructure on an emergency basis.

Outsourcing offers an appealing alternative because healthcare organizations can hire a provider to manage the service on their behalf, avoiding missteps or emergency measures.

2. Managed Services Offer Greater Scalability

Healthcare organizations can turn to outsourcing to improve the scalability of their services. IT leaders shouldn’t plan capacity solely to meet the needs that exist within their organizations today, but rather they should position themselves to meet future needs.

When an organization maintains its own in-house services, it often purchases capacity that sits unused in anticipation of future demand. But organizations that outsource services to scalable providers may gain access to burst capacity. This allows them to meet periods of peak demand. It also allows them to incrementally add capacity and to meet ongoing business requirements without a significant capital investment.

3. Outsourcing Offers and Uptick in Reliability

As with security and scalability, an outside IT provider can often improve the reliability of IT services. By dedicating significant financial resources and entire teams of technologists to each managed service, the provider can realize uptime levels that simply aren’t financially feasible for an organization operating a service in a single data center.

Today’s healthcare organizations are rarely 9-to-5 operations — they now serve clinicians working from home during off-hours and from around the world. Healthcare leaders expect IT services to be available on a 24/7/365 basis. This new reality requires the around-the-clock staffing that IT service providers already offer.

4. Flexibility Skyrockets with Vendors at the Helm

Outsourced IT services give organizations the flexibility they need to reallocate their own IT staff to higher-priority initiatives. By outsourcing commodity services to providers, CIOs may focus their own teams on delivering value directly related to the mission of the healthcare organization. For example, if a hospital’s IT team is freed from the drudgery of network and desktop management, they may focus their time on development activities that directly improve the delivery of healthcare.

Through outsourcing, health organizations may increase the currency of their technology, improve security, enable scalability, bolster reliability and increase their availability to work on mission-critical activities.

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