Questions you should ask your IT service company

Questions you should ask your IT service company

Technology is obviously very important to your dental practice. To keep your technology running smoothly, dental offices require IT support. If you are trying to do this yourself, you will by now have found that is expensive and that you are not very good at it.

Outsourced dental IT can provide many benefits, but finding the right dental IT provider can prove difficult.

There is an abundance of managed services providers to choose from, so it pays to do your research when looking for one you can trust.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask before you make a commitment:

What is included in my monthly service?

Managed service providers have many different ways of charging for their services. And each provider’s monthly price will cover a variety of bundled services. Before partnering with a specific provider, it’s important to understand what services are included.

Some companies advertise a base monthly rate but charge for many small things, like onsite services or setting up a new computer. Ask providers early on what services they include in their pricing to avoid any hidden fees. You can decide to go with a provider that offers a full-service model, or one that goes with a more a la carte style of pricing.

Do you charge extra for after-hours work?

Similar to understanding what services a provider covers, it’s also important to understand if your IT provider charges differently depending on what time of day it is. For example, some companies will charge a higher rate for any work done after business hours or on the weekends.

You’ll want to know if this is the case before you sign any contract or enter a partnership. You may still end up going with an IT provider that charges for after-hours work over a company that doesn’t, but then you will be prepared. You don’t want to end up with something broken after-hours and then be stuck paying a higher rate than you were expecting.

Do you understand the dental sector?

The best Managed Service Provider is the one that remains invested in a your business success, year in and out.

A great MSP will be able to identify potential technology and security gaps, from the initial assessment forward, and provide a technology roadmap to get the practice from its current stage to its desired one and beyond. If the practice has special requirements or needs special emphasis in certain areas, such as security and compliance, you will need to make sure that the Managed Service Provider has the right people and tools in place to help you meet those requirements.

Your IT partner must have a full understanding of the dental sector, including complete familiarity with the dental back-office workflow. If there not familiar with your practice management software and can’t relate to the challenges or limitations it might present, then they probably don’t have the right expertise to optimize your operations. Be sure to ask whether a potential IT services firm is a dental IT provider as opposed to a general IT services contractor.

Are your services compliant with PHIPA legislation?

Since dental offices deal with a lot of patient data, you’ll want to make sure that your IT company has experience with compliance legislation like PHIPA.

Working within this compliance framework means managing data differently. By ensuring they have experience with current legislation, you can trust they know how to handle your data.

If you are breached and have to notify your patients and the legislator, will they represent you at a hearing with the privacy commissioner if required? 

It’s imperative that you choose an IT provider that offers a fully compliant cybersecurity solution. Your provider must ensure the privacy, confidentiality, and availability of protected health information. Some of the minimum standards include advanced encryption systems, stringent access restrictions, threat hunting software, 24/7 network monitoring, and data backups.

When it comes to dental practices, easing the compliance burden is often one of the main reasons for outsourcing IT. If compliance with industry standards isn’t at the forefront of a provider’s value proposition, you should write them off immediately.

Do you monitor network health as a whole?

Dental networks have some unique characteristics and comprise several distinct components, all of which need to be monitored and managed with expert care. Simply looking after just one part of your technology infrastructure isn’t enough.

There is no halfway when it comes to security management.

You need a solution that brings your entire IT ecosystem under one system. It’s about more than just IT support, it’s also about identifying potential liabilities and vulnerabilities in your infrastructure and helping you locate areas for improvement. You should also make sure that they have a monthly reporting system that shows what they do every for you every week and identifies any problems that come up and the resolution.

How Involved are You Willing to be with my Business?

Every business wants to make sure their service provider views them as a business partner rather than another paycheck. For a small and medium sized practice with a tight budget looking to hire a Managed Service provider, this question is especially important. 

A strategic partner is willing to weigh in on your technology decisions—from adding new services to evaluating new technologies. One thing to look for when considering new technologies is Virtual CIO (vCIO) services. A great vCIO will help you understand and make decisions for your organization.  

If you’ve opened lines of communication with a potential Managed Service Provider, take note of the questions they ask about your business. Do their questions focus on how much money they can make from you? Or, do they ask questions about your business goals and technology objectives? Are they trying to learn more about you personally and build a relationship? These questions are a good sign they are looking to form a partnership with more than your bank account.

What will the implementation process look like and how do I get out if I chose to go elsewhere?

Project management expectations for a transition like this are often overlooked in initial conversations with IT service companies and this can be a critical oversight. Asking about this allows everyone to be prepared in case any challenges arise (both expected and unexpected) during the transition and how quickly and efficiently they can be sorted out without impacting day-to-day operations.

If you decide after a period of time to go elsewhere, there shouldn’t be any surprises or difficulties. It’s not something anyone likes to think of, but your business’s needs will change, and the provider’s ability to meet them may change as well. You don’t want to feel locked in if you need to change to another service provider. Besides, offering a clean exit strategy is a sign of an honest business.

What is unique about your IT business?

Lastly, another key question to ask your IT provider is how they are different. What sets them apart from other providers? Have them explain their differentiators and unique offerings. Even more, ask to speak with their current clients. See what they have to say about the provider.

This can give you the best idea of how the company operates and works with its clients.

Overall, finding the right IT service provider for your practice isn’t difficult, it just takes a little effort. Knowing what questions to ask and what to look for when comparing different companies is important to separate high-quality providers from lower-quality counterparts.

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