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Verizon’s 2015 Protected Health Information Data Breach Report shows that 90 percent of health organizations have experienced a breach relating to personal health information (PHI). Consequently, when it comes to IT services, Dallas medical practices, as well as their counterparts around the country, have clear responsibilities regarding protection of data.

All medical practices must abide by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Noncompliance brings severe penalties and consequences to the practice, including loss of licensing and heavy fines.

Every aspect of IT infrastructure from the network, computers, and servers to electronic medical records (EMR) systems and other data systems in a medical practice are governed by HIPAA.

Based on that, here are five IT services that Dallas medical practices need the most:

#1 Hardware and Software Consulting/Implementation Support

While IT hardware and software needs for Dallas medical practices don’t generally differ from those of other businesses, HIPAA compliance and the highly specific software to a medical practice and its interoperability are significantly different. Experienced and skilled managed IT services providers (MSPs) bring both system familiarity and strong technology partner relationships to ensure that practices make the right choices for hardware and software.

This consulting and advisement includes the technical support to implement the solutions so that they are interoperable with other related systems and existing legacy technology. The consulting services will even encompass monitoring training and, of course, upgrades when needed.


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#2 Network Setup, Monitoring, and Support

Managed IT services include both network design and installation, as well as constant monitoring of a network. Setup includes everything from design and setup of the LAN or WAN to the network-attached devices like computers and desktops. Monitoring encompasses installing software for obtaining proactive alerts to IT infrastructure and network connectivity and problems. With the ability to monitor the network and its systems remotely, MSPs can ensure proactive problem-solving that directly affects how the practice can deliver services to patients.

This performance monitoring means the IT service provider can oversee and get to know a network and, over time, predict when hardware is going to break down before it happens. Managed IT services would need to include network setup and monitoring support that includes:

  • Facilitating HIPAA-compliant procedures and accountability
  • EMR and practice management software consulting and support
  • Medical billing software consulting and support
  • Proactive desktop, server, and network management
  • Branch-office connectivity support
  • Remote network monitoring and support

With managed IT services, Dallas medical practices have a 24/7 IT team at their disposal that is familiar with the operation of their practice, their needs, and their systems. This enables them to advise and consult so that a comprehensive IT strategy can be developed for ongoing and future needs. In short, a HIPAA-knowledgeable MSP works with the practice to analyze potential system risks and to implement solutions that will bring those systems into compliance with HIPAA.

#3 Cloud Services

Most medical practices don't have dedicated IT staff or the space to house an on-premises data center, complete with servers and other equipment. Today, everything from practice management, EHRs, and other medical-practice-oriented systems are available via cloud services.

Looking to the cloud for software as a service, as well as data storage options, enables practices to have cost-effective solutions coupled with ease of operation and security.

This intersects with options such as desktop as a service, Office 365 for business software processes, and mobility that enables physicians to access all of it remotely when making rounds in the hospital or when they’re elsewhere.

Of course, with these IT services, Dallas medical practices must have a clear cloud strategy so that they are making the right choices for these cloud services that are integrated while also having the third-party support to ensure that they are implemented and managed correctly. Here again, MSPs with proven experience in the needs of medical practices can fulfill that advisory, implementation, and management role.

#4 Security and Compliance Support

All the above solutions are either part of or drivers of data security, backup, and compliance in one form or another. This includes physical security such as implementation of identity access and management systems so that only authorized users have access to certain information and physical areas. Other areas might include video surveillance to ensure that physical access to the premises are monitored and secure.

General protection of PHI accessibility online, much of which is part of HIPAA recommendations, includes:

  • Encrypted connections (i.e., using SSL/TLS)
  • Robust authentication measures (e.g., multi-factor authentication and adaptive authentication [especially to help prevent phishing attempts])
  • General security housekeeping such as patch management
  • Email encryption
  • Network firewalls and other data in transit measures that enable secure medical record transfers

#5 Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Finally, when it comes to IT services, Dallas medical practices must have a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery plan. This would ensure that in the event of a man-made or natural disaster:

  • The practice can continue to operate
  • Physicians, patients, and staff have authorized access to data and each other via communications
  • The data and communications are secure and HIPAA-compliant

Whether a Dallas medical practice is large or small, they all require the same IT services and support to ensure that they can deliver the best patient outcomes; communicate effectively and simply; and keep patient and business data safe, accessible, and compliant.

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About the Author

Shayne Reich is the President of Willow Bend Systems.

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