From adopting AI to engaging managed IT services, how smaller practices will stay ahead of the tech curve.

Running a medical office has never been more challenging. And, unfortunately, that’s not likely to change in the coming year. Stubborn inflation, wage pressure, labor shortages, and other financial pressures look to be around for a while.

Despite the squeeze, there’s one area in which providers will continue to invest. A recent Bain & Company survey showed that 75% of healthcare providers plan to increase tech spend in the coming year.

Technology investment has always been a bit of a double-edged sword for providers. Smaller providers must balance a tech tightrope, juggling office efficiency, patient care concerns, staffing resources, regulatory mandates, and financial issues while keeping up with the latest and greatest innovations.

So, what tech challenges should they expect in 2024?

We’ve compiled the top three tech-related challenges small practices will face next year – with some useful tips on how forward-thinking practice groups are already preparing.

1. Cybersecurity: Building the Invisible Fortress

The smaller you are, the bigger the target you become for cybercriminals. That’s because larger healthcare systems are fortifying their cyber defense after being a relentless target for cybercriminals since 2020. According to a report in Medical Economics, cyber security risk is growing for small medical practices. In just one year, attacks on physician groups jumped from 2% of all healthcare attacks in the first half of 2021 to 12% in the first half of 2022.

The reason is simple: Small to mid-sized practices often lack the robust IT defenses that larger healthcare organizations can afford, making them low-hanging fruit for cyberattacks. A breach impacts patient trust and can lead to crippling fines and legal problems. Healthcare IT leaders are pressing their C-Suites for the resources needed to keep up with the threat, while smaller operations may look to responsive managed service providers with a healthcare background.

2. Talent Acquisition and Staffing: Using Tech to Ease Burnout

Skilled IT professionals are the cornerstone of effective healthcare today. Yet the competition for these roles is fierce, with many practices struggling to attract talent due to less competitive salaries. Nearly 80% of healthcare providers have increased their spending on technology, but that doesn’t always translate to human resources. In such a tight labor market, the effects of understaffing can ripple through an organization, contributing to operational inefficiencies and staff burnout. According to Bain & Company’s survey, 56% of healthcare providers identified new software as one of their top three strategic priorities. Yet managing and implementing these software solutions often falls on an already overburdened IT staff.

To help provide additional support, many leaders at smaller practices are keeping an eye on generative AI applications or looking to outsource IT services that can reduce the burden on small IT support staffs while making it easier on office admins and staff as they seek to improve operational efficiency.

3. Adapting to Technological Changes: Telehealth, AI, and Beyond

The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards remote healthcare. However, just 6% of healthcare IT leaders have a generative AI strategy as companies struggle to understand liability and HIPAA implications. While the exact reasons change depending on the size of the system, 36% of physicians groups say it’s lack of technical expertise needed to implement.

Overall, smaller organizations must create a comprehensive technology framework that supports telehealth and remote consultation capabilities within your budget constraints and adheres to regulatory concerns.

Now, with ChatGPT and other generative AI coming online, providers face the question of whether they should adopt it and how to adopt it with legacy systems, workflows, and regulatory hurdles. Additionally, artificial intelligence also opens new questions regarding cybersecurity and patient privacy.

The MSP Advantage: Proactive, Not Reactive

Even if handling all these issues internally might seem feasible for an independent practice, it’s often a band-aid solution to a growing wound. One solution many smaller operations choose is hiring a managed service provider – sort of a back bench for your current IT support. The right provider can augment your existing IT with a balance of operational expertise, compliance insight, and a keen understanding of budget constraints.

As practice administrators juggle operational concerns and finance directors ponder making the correct strategic investments at a time when budgets are tight, having an MSP as a technology partner can be transformative.

MSPs offer a proactive, not just reactive, approach to IT issues. This doesn’t just minimize your risks; it also optimizes your IT investments and operations, ensuring that technology serves as an enabler for better patient care and not as a constraint.

By addressing these issues head-on, small and mid-sized practices can emerge not just as survivors but as agile, patient-focused healthcare providers. When it comes to healthcare IT in 2024, going alone is no longer an option.

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