Is your practice ready to hire an IT technician?

June 1, 2005

Nearly every practice is increasing the use of technology to improve office efficiency, enhance reimbursement, and increase patient satisfaction. Nearly every practice has or is considering implementing an electronic medical record, creating a robust interactive web site, networking their computers, and using electronic claims submission and a claims scrubber to ensure that claims are processed more quickly to increase your practice's cash flow.

With all of this electronic equipment, practices will need to have access to an information technology technician to keep all that hardware and software maintained and operating in a flawless fashion. All of us who are attempting to go paperless know the crisis created when the EMR goes down.

Consequently, most practices will have to hire an IT technician to manage all those electronic gadgets. This article will provide suggestions on how to find the right IT technician for your practice and how to keep all those electrons flowing and your "chips" properly stacked.

How to find a professional I suggest you begin by asking for a resumé. Rosemarie Nelson, a consultant at the Medical Group Management Association, cautions against looking only for a technician with a computer science degree. Often these "techies" have expertise in programming, which is only a small part of the technology needs for your practice. A technician with network experience is a prerequisite, since most practices will have multiple computers and multiple programs that need to be integrated.

An ideal technician needs to be able to communicate with your vendors and be able to speak the language of "computerese."

Ideally the technician should have medical office experience and understand the process of caring for your patients. You want your technician to have a minimum understanding of HIPAA and patient confidentiality as well. This means he or she must make the office computers secure and have firewalls to prevent breaches in security. Finally, the technician should have a backup process for the practice.

Large practices and multi-specialty group practices may require a full-time technician or a staff of technicians. However, smaller groups and solo practices may want to hire a part-time consultant.

Where do you find an IT technician? Resources include university computer science departments, local technical schools for computer technicians, the IT staff at your hospital, and even your patients.

Neil H. Baum, MD, is a urologist in private practice in New Orleans. He is the author of Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically.