Jan 05 2024

How Do Managed Services Support Healthcare Providers and Promote Positive Healthcare Outcomes?

Partnering with a managed services provider can help healthcare organizations ensure IT needs are met amid workforce and budget constraints, while reducing the burden on internal IT staff.

Resource constraints in the healthcare industry, already a significant challenge for nearly every healthcare provider, were exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic nearly four years ago, which impacted high-margin revenue contributions and increased complexity associated with remote care.

Beyond the revenue impact from clinical care associated with elective procedures, which were dramatically reduced during the pandemic, the overall complexity of managing a healthcare IT environment increased with the influx of telehealth and other virtual care solutions. While these trends have waned since the peak of the pandemic, healthcare organizations continue to face difficulties finding and retaining adequate talent and keeping up with an ever-evolving technology landscape.

More organizations are comfortable with remote work, meaning there’s more competition when trying to hire IT experts. An IT architect in Ohio could make more money working remotely for a hospital in California. This, coupled with an IT skills shortage, complicates the hiring landscape. Simultaneously, cyberthreats continue to grow, causing many healthcare organizations to struggle to prioritize their already-strained financial resources, address the skills gap and cope with these threats in a cost-effective manner.

That’s where managed services come in. There are a wide variety of managed services available to healthcare organizations to support internal IT teams through a combination of people, process and tools, so their valuable internal resources can focus on critical work rather than on basic day-to-day tasks. Here’s what healthcare organizations need to know about using managed services.

DISCOVER: Managed services lend expert support to health IT departments.

How Do Managed IT Services Support Healthcare Organizations?

Managed service providers (MSPs) have a portfolio of skills and resources that healthcare organizations can rely on to supplement their internal IT teams. For example, a health system’s network engineer may know how to manage a Palo Alto firewall, a Cisco router and an Arista switch. However, that role requires the worker to be a jack of all trades and a master of none, whereas an MSP has specialized teams consisting of certified engineers focused on each of those technologies that can provide a depth of expertise not achievable by the health system on its own.

Many health systems’ IT departments have headcount constraints and are unable to add an additional full-time employee. However, they still need to ensure that all IT work is done properly and at the pace of technological acceleration occurring today. Managed services can help healthcare organizations offset that constraint.

It's important to know that hiring an MSP isn’t the same as hiring just one person. Using an MSP such as CDW brings a combination of people, processes and tools delivered as a 24/7 service. When we get an alert while monitoring a system, we know what to do with it. We can effectively and efficiently triage, address, remediate and report back on that incident. To get equivalent service internally, a healthcare organization would likely have to hire multiple full-time staffers, in addition to investing in tools, maintaining those tools, and developing and implementing the processes to react to those tools’ outputs.

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It’s also important that healthcare organizations considering managed services understand and be open to how work should be done. In some cases, the IT team may not be doing things as efficiently or effectively as it could be if it were offering a full-service solution to the organization. While often unintended, this is a common manifestation of simply not having the resources to effectively support the environment. One common example is patching: Organizations often struggle to keep up with patching of their environment due to conflicting priorities, lack of resources and lack of automation. CDW Managed Services brings resources to proactively maintain patching of critical IT assets through a proven methodology leveraging enterprise class tools governed by service-level agreements.

Organizations may need to be open to a paradigm shift when it comes to working with an MSP that’s bound by SLAs. There may be existing institutional knowledge in place or ingrained habits of reaching out directly to have IT issues addressed, and these cultural norms may need to be adjusted. Ultimately, however, the reason for using an MSP is to alleviate clinical staff from having to engage IT by maintaining critical systems at an optimal level, preventing problems from occurring in the first place.

There are ways an MSP can build institutional or cultural norms into the service it provides, but the organization should be flexible in adjusting their operational procedures to achieve optimal efficiency and accountability. The goal is to increase operational maturity, which often can require cultural change.

What Kinds of Managed Services Are Available to Health Providers?

Healthcare organizations can take advantage of a wide variety of managed services that can be deployed in a modular or holistic way, depending on their needs, whether they are facing challenges related to staff, expertise, budget or technical debt.

CDW offers services focused on (but not limited to):

We’re focused on proactively managing your environment to reduce incidents and problems from impacting your clinical care providers and the systems they interact with to do their jobs. Inevitably, however, things happen, and we are there with you to resolve those problems efficiently and effectively and to ensure they don’t reoccur, through an end-to-end incident management process. We are not “ticket kickers.” CDW Managed Services understands the healthcare industry and the underlying infrastructure that is required to provide quality care.

Further, as the IT landscape continues to evolve and healthcare organizations become more comfortable with emerging consumption models, CDW Managed Services can evolve with you, shifting from legacy on-premises consumption models to operational-expense models, including public, private or hybrid cloud, as-a-service models, or a combination of these.

EXPLORE: Three key questions to ask when considering a managed security services provider.

How Do Managed Service Providers Collaborate with Health IT Teams?

Managed services don’t equate to traditional outsourcing, which can introduce significant change and upheaval. Rather, these services should be considered “co-sourcing,” in which we act as an extension of the healthcare organization’s IT staff. 

The two major concerns organizations have when considering managed services are that the internal IT team members will lose their jobs or that the organization will lose control of its IT environment. Neither of those are true.

When a healthcare organization can’t adequately position IT staff due to their lack of skills, inability to retain adequate skills, not having effective tools in place or having ineffective processes, CDW can address those challenges. We integrate with the healthcare organization’s existing staff and processes, while implementing efficiencies and automation where appropriate. We do so with a collaborative, best-practices mindset. We don’t introduce change for change’s sake, and we don’t operate in a vacuum.

For example, one of the critical steps in onboarding a new customer into CDW Managed Services is to integrate IT Service Management systems. This allows the customer to continue to operate as they do today while implementing bidirectional communication between systems, eliminating the need to log in to duplicate systems or “swivel seat” between two systems. Further, we give the organization visibility into its environment with real-time access to the monitoring tools and their outputs via the Managed Services portal.

CDW’s managed Security Operations Center services provide 24/7 expertise to monitor and respond to alerts, eliminate “noise” such as false positives, and provide consultative guidance on how to respond to and eliminate threats. Managing firewalls is complex and can have broad impacts on an environment without effective change management and governance in place. All of this is part of the value proposition CDW Managed Security Services brings to the critically important and incredibly complex job of managing and maintaining an effective security posture.

Healthcare organizations can’t afford to have their expensive, dedicated internal staff occupied with “low value” tasks that could be automated or handled by a purpose-built managed services provider like CDW. We focus on taking day-to-day care of the environment off the IT team’s plate so it can focus on strategic, revenue-generating activities that improve the organization’s ability to provide quality healthcare to its patients.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series.

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