Why a “Local IT Person” is Not Enough for Today’s Dental Practice
By CK Newman, Digital Technology Partners
Many times throughout my career with Digital Technology Partners, I have been told by a dental practice, “I have a local IT guy/girl.” These practices using a local IT technician seem to be under the false impression that this person can satisfy all of their dental IT needs. However, what I have also learned throughout the years, is that a sole local IT technician cannot support a healthcare provider to the capacity that is required in today’s world.
Here are a few examples:
Business Associate Agreement
First of all, does your local IT guy have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place with your practice? This is the document that spells out who is responsible for what when it comes to your protected health data?
For example, who is responsible for a breach and how much will their insurance pay should an incident occur? For that matter, do you know if your local technician is even insured? If there is no BAA in place, your dental office will most likely be held 100% liable and solely responsible for all the repercussions – – such as notifying your entire patient database that their information was breached and paying for credit monitoring for every patient for a few years.
Is this something your local IT person is going to take care of for you? Is it important enough to you to consider more robust IT support for your practice?
Is your local IT technician providing full antivirus support to protect your practice? You may think you do not need to worry about this if you are using one of the many free antivirus programs. However, nearly all free antivirus programs are not licensed for business use and their terms of service have therefore been broken. Even paid antivirus programs can be challenging for the average local IT tech.
The local tech must know your software inside and out to provide the appropriate antivirus support. If they don’t know how to input exclusions, for example, then your software will not perform at the proper speed it designed for and your productivity will drop.
An antivirus program also comes with its own software firewall. Hopefully, the local tech knows how to manage that firewall in conjunction with the windows firewall and the network firewall. Believe me, it is as difficult as it sounds unless you have significant experience managing this for a specific industry (like dental).
Security Patches, Vulnerability Management, and Updates
Other important considerations for dental offices are security patches, vulnerability management, and updates.
To protect a dental office properly, patches (or fixes) to known vulnerabilities must be consistently applied. Vulnerabilities in software and hardware are found by people looking to exploit them every day. Once the manufacturer of the hardware or software is made aware of a vulnerability, they release a “patch” or fix for it. If you have time, conduct an internet search on ‘common software vulnerabilities.’ Needless to say, you will find there are several. Unless your local IT tech is constantly monitoring all hardware and software installed for these vulnerabilities and fixing them every day, you aren’t protected as much as you may think you are or should be.
Offsite backup is the holy grail of necessity for a healthcare provider today. This is a critical line of defense in protecting your patients and your practice in case of a catastrophic incident – whether it be ransomware, natural disaster, dead hard drives in a server, etc.
As a healthcare provider, Federal law requires that you retain healthcare records going back seven years (Georgia is ten years). That can be a lot of data. It’s not uncommon for that local IT tech to set up a “cloud” in their homes or rent space in a data center. But, are they checking that data daily? What happens if their house has a broken pipe or fire? Usually, the hard drive dies in the Network Access Storage Device or Western Digital Cloud they use, and they aren’t aware until they have to actually retrieve the data. Another regrettable occurrence happens when they don’t set the parameters properly and the backup is actually purged periodically.
There are so many different occurrences that can go wrong with an offsite backup that it’s almost a daily task to make sure everything is working properly and meets government requirements.
Dental Peripherals and Components
Your dental peripherals and components are also very serious considerations. This includes intra–oral cameras, intra–oral sensors, all the different panoramic machines, phosphorus plate scanners, printers, scanners, credit card processors, phone systems, 3D components, patient view monitors, patient entertainment, music, headphones, wireless, lab transmission, practice management, imaging, claims, patient communication, schedule confirmation software, email, etc.
Would You Bet Your Practice On It?
Do you still think that your IT guy/girl has the capability to manage everything that’s needed to keep your dental practice thriving, safe, and compliant? Are you willing to bet your practice on it? The truth is, if you are trusting all of your technology to a local IT tech, you already are. Feel free to print out this article and ask him/her about each set of components.
Over the years, we’ve seen the negative impact of low-level IT support. However, we’ve also seen first-hand the positive impact the right technology and total service solution make on a dental office’s profits, success, and growth.
At Digital Technology Partners, we’ve been providing fast, secure, and reliable IT solutions to dental practices throughout the U.S. for more than 15 years. We manage all aspects of dental technology including office design & setup, cybersecurity and HIPAA best practices, and dependable IT support & service.
Find out if your current IT solution is enough. Request a free dental office evaluation for a complete, no-obligation assessment to identify any vulnerabilities, strengths, or serious risk factors to your practice.