Tech support options

September 10, 2010

Know your IT options when implementing an electronic health record system.

Q: In the past, when there were power outages or problems with the hardware at our practice, we could still operate because we could still see patients who walked through the door. We're now implementing an electronic health record (EHR) system, and therefore the technology is more critical to be up and running during the day. When that technology fails, we can easily start losing revenue. What are our options?

A: As you look at bringing in new technology to your practice, it is very important for you to decide how that technology will be supported. You have several options, and you need to find the one that fits best for you practice needs.

Option 1: Purchase vs. hosted solution. With some solutions, you have the option of having the technology on-site at your practice, or you have the ability to have it hosted by a third-party supplier. There are pros and cons to each option; however, one pro is that the third party can be responsible for supporting the application. You will be paying a monthly fee for this hosted solution and the fees will vary based on the technology and the level of support they provide. If you don't want to worry about having the expertise within your staff or trying to find a local IT company to partner with, a hosted solution is a very good option.

Option 3: Support contract. This type of plan guarantees that you can have a support person on-site within so many hours to fix any issue. Some plans are set up where you purchase up front a number of hours a year and others are set up where you pay a monthly premium for guaranteed response time. The benefit of this type of plan is that it is a cheaper option. There is no "preventive" monitoring, but when problems do happen, you know you will have someone available in a number of hours.

Option 4: Hourly basis. This option is having no support contract with any company, a pay as you go plan. You can always contact local technology vendors and see when they can get someone onsite to fix problems.

As you bring in new technology, you should always determine the best way to support that technology. More and more, software companies will only support their software. They will not support the hardware, the workstations, or the network that is used to access their software. They leave it up to the practice to determine how those components will be supported.

Answers to readers' questions were provided by Alice Gosfield, Alice Gosfield & Associates PC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Kenneth T. Hertz, Medical Group Management Association Healthcare Consulting Group, Pineville, Louisiana.; Jack Rue Coleman, CHBC, Dental-Medical Economics, Plano, Texas; John Untener, Clayton L. Scroggins Associates, Cincinnati, Ohio. Send your practice management questions to medec@advanstar.com