Outpatient Information Technology: Focus on Clinical Work, Not on Managing Technology

Before we talk about big issues like computer networks, managing patient records, EHR, and specialized workflow we think its important to focus on a few basic technology requirements that every small to medium sized medical practice seems to ignore or struggle with. Its the same thing you use your personal computer for: email, contacts, calendars, and other basic organization and communication tools. Even brand new practices need these basic tools so that they can focus on growth and patient care. If you're still a small facility you may be relying on personal email addresses and makeshift collaboration solutions such as emailing/faxing documents and post-it notes. While it seems like this is making due, we have found that setting up properly from the start unburdens you so you can focus on more important matters such as establishing referral sources and seeing patients.

While some facilities (especially larger practices) understand the need for these things we have seen countless examples of practices setting up complicated systems that they build and support in-house, such as Microsoft Exchange servers and VPN networks to connect their different facilities. Sometimes they will even commit to unknown, third party small business solutions. Even large enterprises with numerous resources have a difficult time supporting their IT systems. Why would small and medium sized medical facilities take on this burden? You need a tech guy, servers, expensive software, in house support for technical problems, etc. After all that its difficult to know if it has been set up to deliver fast and secure service.

Because of these challenges, we are a big proponent of learning to outsource. You're a medical facility; focus on medical care. Rely on smart tech companies to take care of the other stuff. The perfect example of this is Google Apps, a package that includes Google's well developed and popular consumer services. You can get Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Google Docs (and even more) as your facilities' own branded service. For example, say you are Orthopedics of America and you plan to have the website www.ooa.com. You can create email address like drsmith@ooa.com. You just log into a gmail account with that address to see your email, calendars, contacts and much more!

You get all the same benefits of their consumers services such as access from any browser or device, security that is managed by a billion dollar web company, and much more. We have successfully implemented this system in a medical practice with over 50 users across 5 facilities and it has made all the difference in the growth of those facilities. Yahoo and Microsoft have similar services, but the point is learning to put your data "in the cloud". This eliminates all the burdens mentioned above and can usually be accomplished at a very low cost. Other tasks like project management, HR, accounting, and file storage also have numerous web-based options. We have succesfully implemented GQueues and Dropbox, but your solution can take on any form.

Most people are concerned about leaving this data in others' hands, but the trick is picking providers you trust, and this day in age its not hard. Even larger companies are making this transition. Besides, do you think it is more secure and reliable to have emails on a computer in your office with a little lock or on server farms with world-class security measures in place?

While we have no specific relationship with any software listed above, we do have experience setting up medical facilities with some of them: If you have questions, feel free to contact us to see if we can help in any way.

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