When evaluating an IT partner, we know it’s easy to focus solely on price. And as a small business ourselves, we understand the tendency to boil a partner down to their monthly expense. However, we’ve seen too many practices get burned by going the ‘cheap’ route, and often wonder, “Didn’t they see this coming?” We created the list below in hopes that it will help you better compare not only the bottom line, but how to look for the best value when it comes to an IT partner.
1. HIPAA Compliance Expertise and Training
As a healthcare provider, you have an obligation to your patients and practice to make sure your technology complies with the latest compliancy standards. A good dental IT partner will be fully aware of new regulations, and will continuously advise your practice of any system changes that you should initiate. An exceptional partner will provide complimentary HIPAA IT assessments by request, and unlimited HIPAA compliance guidance as needed. Additionally, they should be familiar enough with dental IT regulations that their services will comply with those standards (ex. Encryption, offsite data backup, secure and safe practice data, ect). Most importantly, your partner should establish a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) at the beginning of your partnership. If you do not currently have a BAA with your provider, we highly encourage you request one.
2. Significant Experience With Dental Software and Equipment
We can’t stress the importance of having an IT partner who knows the dental-specific software and equipment you rely on every single day. A provider that already works with several dental practices, and therefore is well versed in dental software and equipment, is a strong first line of defense when it comes to troubleshooting. This type of provider will help prevent problems before they arise because they know compatibility standards. Their knowledge will also allow them to work with vendors on your behalf to solve complicated issues without you playing the “middle man”. A partner which understands your specific requirements will also save time and money as they will be able to recommend equipment that works well with the staples you’ve already invested in. An IT partner who truly understands how your practice works allows you to focus on patients, instead of struggling with a general provider who is new to the dental industry.
3. Network Security Knowledge
Your IT professional should be knowledgeable in how dental practices should be configured. This includes how to store data securely while meeting compliance standards. Extensive knowledge regarding anti-virus and firewall security standards for the healthcare industry is also invaluable, as it will help save you time, stress, and potential breaches should a security issue occur. Nearly 1 million malware threats are released every single day(!), so you really need a partner who can help you tackle the increasingly threatening IT landscape.
4. Proactive Server, Workstations and Network Monitoring
An often overlooked IT offering is daily monitoring of your entire office network to prevent potentially catastrophic scenarios from occurring. This type of monitoring will help catch and eliminate miscellaneous bugs in your system before they are able to impact your productivity. Aside from the technical benefits, proactive monitoring provides you with peace of mind that constant cleansing of your data will keep your office working optimally every day. It’s important to remember that just because your computers are functioning does not mean they are free of issues that are potentially putting your office at risk. Proactive monitoring helps catch vulnerabilities that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
5. Fast and Friendly Support
Possibly the most underrated aspect on our list! Fast support is self-explanatory: When tech issues arise, the last thing you want to do is sit on hold and navigate through an automated menu; all while patients and staff are standing by. A partner who provides fast and effective support becomes invaluable in those times of need. Additionally, friendly techs that know your team and practice when you call goes a LONG way when you’re facing a stressful situation. Knowing personal aspects of your practice (like how old the practice and equipment are, familiarity with each staff member, an immediate idea of recurring issues) help get issues solved quicker and with less effort on your part.
We encourage you to evaluate your current dental IT partner based on the criteria above, and have a conversation with them regarding any gray areas. For those currently searching for an IT partner: this is your friendly reminder to truly compare “apples to apples”, and not just cost. While we understand the temptation, avoid comparing only prices without understanding what you gain or lose by trusting the cheapest option.
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