Information technology (IT) spending in healthcare is on the rise and growing rapidly. In 2016 it increased by $1.5 billion compared to 2013 (CFR) and continues increasing by the billions. Despite the predicted rise in IT healthcare spending, you shouldn’t let your IT budget go off the rails.
Have a Proactive Strategy
Many unbudgeted spends are a result of “unexpected” issues. An IT spend climbs rapidly when you are in crisis mode. By having a proactive approach and evaluating your systems, you eliminate problems before they have a chance to surprise you.
There are three major areas of spending in an IT budget that can have many costly variables but which, if evaluated annually, are manageable and predictable:
- Equipment, software, and applications
- Computer systems management and maintenance
Head Off Known Security Issues
The year 2016 saw a dramatic rise in ransomware viruses and hacking. Ransomware tricks users into clicking infected links, encrypts their data including their network data, renders the data useless, and demands a ransom for its recovery. If a ransom is not paid the data is left inaccessible and unusable.
Security issues have already begun playing out in 2017 and must be taken seriously by healthcare practices. Your IT provider needs to ensure you have a solid plan that is proactive and preventative to stop security issues before, when, and after they happen. Preparation is key.
Does your security protocol include these?
- Secure e-mail
- Spam filters
- Security scans
- Vulnerability testing
- Third-party access management
- A second line of defense to detect infection by ransomware when it strikes and disable it before it spreads
- Business continuity plan for data backup and disaster recovery
Technology Health Check (equipment, software, and applications)
Your healthcare practice’s IT systems are fallible. Unfortunately, equipment, software, and applications all have a life cycle. Machines break, software needs updating, and applications depend upon new releases to be compatible with new equipment and software. It’s a never- ending cycle.
Your IT systems work in concert so when one element is not functioning the system doesn’t function. Unfortunately, many healthcare practices do not know they are close to failure until it is too late. This leads to costly, last-minute upgrades or emergency replacements that could have been avoided with strategy and planning.
Stop right now and do a technology health check:
- Physical servers and firewalls should be no more than 7 years old.
- Storage should be no more than 5 years old.
- Workstations and laptops should be no more than 4 years old. Power users generally begin seeing performance-related issues two or three years in.
- Key business applications should be upgraded at least every 2 years and be no more than 2 major releases behind.
- Servers should generally not share roles with one another unless approved and supported by the application vendor.
- Key hardware and software should have active vendor maintenance plans.
Computer Systems Management and Maintenance Plans
IT support charged by the hour is an expenditure that is regularly larger than a practice anticipates. It may feel like a savings up front, but will quickly escalate when there’s an issue. Overtime charges, rush deliveries, and downtime will make up for any savings you may have had when there were no issues.
Contracting with an experienced healthcare IT service provider for an annual management and maintenance plan will ensure that not only are your systems serviced when there is a crisis, but also your systems’ health is being monitored and managed before an issue arises, thus bringing you peace of mind.
The key to keeping an IT budget in check is being prepared, informed, and having the right kind of support.