I have worked with many hospital administrators who regularly lost sleep at night worrying about IT issues. Smaller hospitals have it especially hard. Resources are limited, with often just one or two staffers managing the entire technology infrastructure. As hospitals work to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2, which requires more clinical reporting and an infrastructure to accommodate the exchange of greater amounts of clinical data, the situation might only get worse. Many times, the responsibility of IT falls on a CFO or COO- roles which are traditionally filled by people with little experience managing information systems. When handled correctly, hospital IT outsourcing can relieve administrators of overwhelming and time-consuming duties and allow them to focus on strategic initiatives.
The Rate of Change in IT is Extremely Fast
In a traditional setting, administrators lack the time and resources to invest in research and training for technical staff. According to a study from Comptia, “93 percent of organizations acknowledged an overall skill gap among their IT staff — that is, the difference between the existing skill levels and desired skilled levels. Further, 60 percent of respondents reported their organization’s IT skills being not close or only moderately close to where they wanted.” However, the same study shows that IT industry firms are 20% more likely than other organizations to train or retrain existing staff. IT outsourcing firms place a huge importance on training and development because skilled talent is a major competitive factor.
Access a Larger Staff
Typically, a small hospital only has one or two IT staffers. If someone leaves or becomes ill, administration has to scramble to find a replacement. In the meantime, if something goes wrong, hospital operations could come to a screeching halt. With an outsourced partner, you can call on a dozen or so staff who are familiar with your infrastructure. Turnover is no longer a risk factor.
Leverage a Diverse Pool of Talent
You’ll not only enjoy a larger IT staff, but one with a diverse skill set. Outsourcing IT is like having a technology “Swiss Army Knife” in your back pocket.
You’ll have access to a staff with a wide range of expertise, from network engineering to backup and disaster recovery to server management. Additionally, these staffers have worked in other hospitals and can bring their experience and best practices into new hospitals.
Focus on Strategy and Your Core Role
Outsourcing allows administrators to focus on new opportunities rather than existing problems. You’ll have a partner to help you evaluate upcoming projects and work with you to resolve issues. According to Shamb Purohit, CFO of SMITH Northview Hospital (now a campus of South Georgia Medical Center), “Before, IT was a constant worry on my mind. Outsourcing has taken that burden from our leadership, which has allowed us to focus on growth and opportunities for the hospital.”
An outsourced IT partner can become your Virtual CIO, which will allow you to focus on your core administrative role.
Vendor vs. Partner Role
According to a study published by the University of Oregon, a major risk involved in outsourcing IT is a loss of control of the IT function. To prevent this from happening, we recommend a partnership approach over a traditional vendor approach. An IT partner will focus on developing a long-term relationship with the hospital. A partner is just as likely as the CFO to attend regular management meetings. A partner leads the process of IT decision-making, but consults with administration on a regular basis to get buy-in and feedback.
Outsourcing is Not a Quick-Fix
Outsourcing IT will not be a quick fix to major pre-existing issues. On that same token, complete IT outsourcing may not be the right fit for every small hospital. In some cases, it may be wise to take a slower approach and outsource just a few key functions- using a data center, or custom application development for example.
If you’re curious about outsourcing hospital IT, the best way to get started is by making a simple phone call. Nexxtep has provided outsourcing services to hospitals for almost ten years, and we’d be happy to discuss our experiences with you in more detail.