Even if it’s running fine – even great – it’s a good idea to get your car looked over once in a while. You want to replace those brake pads before they are worn down to the point of damaging the brake drum. If there is a belt that is about to break, it’s best to take care of it before it does. Heck, even something simple like making sure it has enough of all the fluids is important.
That is certainly the case for your healthcare organization’s IT system. If that goes down suddenly for unknown reasons and for a length of time, the consequences can be dire. Hundreds of patients could be affected, and your organization’s reputation could be damaged in a way that greatly affects your bottom line. If there is one area you want to be proactive on, it’s here.
No matter how strong your IT personnel department is, it’s always good to have an external set of eyes to go through the various checkpoints of your system. An objective professional is more likely to catch potential bottlenecks inefficiencies, and problem areas than one who is living with the system on a daily basis.
First and foremost, you want to assess security. Understanding what, if any risks, there are in the current system, making sure there are no security defects or vulnerabilities, is something that is of the utmost importance. Also, as it is a moving target, getting key, experienced professionals involved can prevent problems that can lead to a major crisis.
Looking at the health and age of the infrastructure is next. This is an area U.S. HealthTek is especially experienced in, as we’re able to ask te right questions and our experience allows us to understand all the variables involved. These include how much data is flowing, what kind of data, who is accessing the system, and many more factors. Also, the term “old” is relative in the IT world, but while some might be quick to call for a time-consuming and expensive complete replacement, we can often make recommendations and find solutions that extend the life of the system. If it’s determined the time is now for a complete replacement, there are smart, economically sound solutions available.
Aside from the technical, the organization’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) should be studied and scrutinized. Is there room for improvement? Can staff be re-allocated in a manner that increases efficiencies? And about that staff – what do they have to say? We like to sit down and talk with all involved with IT at every level and do some serious listening. You’d be surprised at how some associates are more comfortable bringing something up to an outside consultant rather than “bothering” a manager. But what is important about this part of the process is that there have been many times when solutions and great ideas are found right in these initial meetings.
After going through it all thoroughly, we compile a deliverable that is the start of a meaningful discussion. In reviewing our findings with an organization’s managers, we will talk about solutions and usually offer various options. If some aspect of it can safely be deferred, we will say that. One aspect is crucial – once we together decide what needs to be fixed, replaced, or generally improved, that action list needs to be implemented.
So how often should an assessment be done? First, it should be anytime you’re suspicious that your technology is not at the level your operation needs. A sudden dramatic uptick in business is a good reason. Or if you’re suddenly getting a lot of viruses and email attacks or if you’re experiencing a lot of downtime. Otherwise, it’s good to do an annual mini-assessment every year, and then a thorough one involving the hardware every three years. Outside professionals with healthcare IT experience will always be your best bet.
Network Operations Center
While I’m on the topic, I would be remiss to not mention our Network Operations Center (NOC Monitoring) service. This custom-built service for small- and mid-sized labs puts together advanced technology and a team to monitor what is happening in your system in real time. This is considerably less expensive than a traditional NOC. This monitoring system can keep your operations running smoothly and the complete, comprehensive, and turnkey system can find small problems before they become big problems. Constant monitoring of your operation is vital not only in keeping it running smoothly, but in better serving your clients, patients, vendors, and even your own employees.
Just like your approach to keeping your car safe for you and your family, you want to be sure your IT system is keeping your organization safe and secure before any issues arise. The bottom line is simple: your IT system is the beating heart of your organization. Let’s make sure it always beats strong.