Should Healthcare Providers Outsource Their IT Support?

One of the biggest challenges healthcare providers face – like most businesses – is working within a budget whilst still providing the best service possible. It is becoming common now for in house IT support roles to make way for contracted outsourced MSPs (Managed Service Providers). These are specialist teams of IT professionals that deliver IT support to a plethora of different businesses and organisations. 

More so than many other organisations, healthcare providers have to work inside the constraints of a strict budget – and from that aspect it makes a lot of sense to leave the recruiting and training of specialist IT staff to the experts – but a healthcare provider has unique needs that an external team may not understand. 

There is sensitive and confidential patient data – as well as the consequences of downtime in a healthcare setting being a lot more onerous than they may be in a business setting. 

The question is whether the unique IT needs of a healthcare provider would be better serviced by being outsourced or not? 

What is an MSP?

An in-house IT team is exactly what it says it is – IT specialists employed by the healthcare providers themselves to deliver all IT support as needed. So, what’s the alternative to this? 

This is where an MSP (Managed Service Provider) comes in. MSPs are, in essence, a full IT support team who are not based on site like an in house team, but are at then of a p hone or computer to deliver critical IT support 24 hours a day.

Their main role is the maintenance of the healthcare providers IT network – and they deal with anything from small hardware issues right up to full network design and installation. 

Service Level Agreements

Every business is unique – and MSP’s acknowledge this and therefore the relationship between healthcare provider and MSP is governed by what is known as a ‘Service Level Agreement’ (or SLA). This is a detailed document that explains exactly what the MSP is going to do for you; what that service is going to cost; what rate any additional work is costed at, and any special requirements that are needed specific to the end user will be put in here.

Before employing an MSP there will be a consultation process where the company will sit down with a healthcare provider and get a detailed understanding what the IT requirements are. A good MSP should recognise that healthcare providers tend to have some very specific requirements; especially pertaining to service ‘uptime’ (i.e. being able to access information when you need it). It’s also important that an MSP acknowledges the sensitivity of the data you hold – and carries accreditations that prove they will protect it accordingly.

Points like these will all be taken care of between the MSP and the healthcare provider in the consultation stage- and drawn up in the SLA, meaning that the unique needs of the healthcare provider can be met. Clearly, the best provider might not the first one you sit down with – so it’s worth digging deep into what you need from an MSP before making your final decision.

Benefits of an MSP

We know what an MSP is and how it can deliver outsourced IT support to healthcare providers, but what are the actual benefits of using an MSP compared to keeping your own team of IT specialists ‘on site’ in case of any IT problems?

Recruitment

There are two major benefits to using an MSP compared to having to recruit your own in-house team. The first one is the financial cost: you do not have to advertise the role, pay recruitment consultants and take huge amounts of person hours away from providing your core provision. 

The second one is a lack of expert knowledge – as healthcare providers, healthcare is what you are good at – so you cannot be expected to be able to recruit the best IT staff when you are not an expert in that field. An MSP is a ready-made set of IT experts who can simply provide the full IT support package – with no prior knowledge or expertise needed from their client.

Training

Once in-house staff have been recruited there is often training and continual professional development that they need to complete – at that involves time and money. Of course, there is also the risk that once you have trained a team, they can then move on to another company – or make a move to the private sector – where increased salaries might look more tempting. With an MSP, this training and retention happens behind the scenes – with no associated worries for you.

Fixed Costs

It is hard to gauge what an in-house IT department is going to cost you month after month. You have to deal with issues such as sickness, leave, resignations and sometimes suspensions – and then you still may have to outsource the IT support temporarily at greatly inflated cost.

When running on a tight budget – like most healthcare providers do – the idea of fixed monthly running costs for the IT department offered by an MSP is very appealing, and often means more budget flexibility in other parts of the business. 

What’s best for healthcare providers?

Ultimately, there are pros and cons involved with both in-house IT teams and Managed Service Providers. Generally though, budgets and money reign supreme – so the idea of expert support with IT at a fraction of the traditional price usually makes the decision an easy one. 

There has never been such intense scrutiny around the IT provision that underpins healthcare providers’ services – and as such, it’s crucial that an MSP understands this landscape – and offers cast-iron guarantees about the level of service you can expect. 

With a robust service level agreement in place, you can rest easy – knowing that your IT support is boxed off, suitable, and always in place. Since IT is such an enormous consideration for modern organisations – this often frees up significant time for you to focus on driving your provision forward, reaching for those always-moving targets on the horizon.

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