Thursday, February 16, 2017

Moving a medical practice can be a daunting task



By: Blake Perry, Chief Technology Officer, Keep IT Simple.

Keep IT Simple has participated in 150+ moves, in-place relocations, new office constructions, and renovations.

Moving a medical practice can be a daunting task. A medical office move can be a result of needing a bigger space, physician retirement, or practice acquisition. While making patients aware of a major change is most certainly a priority, it is equally important to make sure their documents and all office data and service equipment survives the move as well.

What are some things to consider when moving a medical practice? Why is this important?

Whether a medical practice is renovating, moving upstairs, or across town, it is very important to consider how the computers and network equipment will be affected. Are you going to use a new internet provider or a new phone service? Who will be responsible for transporting your computers and network equipment? Who will set it all up again? When will your practice be able to see patients again or take payments?

When planning for a major move, consider having a technology company perform additional backups before the transfer, transport your equipment, and set it back up again. Using a technology company is important because traditional moving companies are not equipped to handle medical technology equipment properly. In most cases, servers and workstations house all patient information and must be transported safely by a professional familiar with using information-sensitive software.

If your medical practice is still using paper charts, it is critical to have your moving company sign a business associate agreement. When a company will be responsible for transporting medical records, they will have exclusive access, even momentarily, to patient information.

In most cases, your office will need to stop seeing patients for equipment to be taken down, backed up, and packed up for a move. Aside from the physical move of your equipment, it is equally important to consider how long it will take to move your equipment. During the hiatus, you can adjust your schedule accordingly, and let patients know when you’ll be available for appointments.

Additional things to take into consideration are:

• the location of computer equipment, and

• what services will be used in the new space.

It is important to know where the computer equipment will be located in your new space so that power plugs, network plugs, phone plugs, and counter-top holes are accessible and the equipment can be properly set up. Most services, like internet, TV, and phone, can be moved to a new location with advanced notice. Sometimes, you will want to take this opportunity to change internet providers, add additional TVs, or upgrade your phone system. These are things that a good technology consultant can help you prepare for so that you don’t have any surprises.

Moving technology equipment is best left to the original installers. Is it common practice for IT companies?

Best case scenario is that the original installers are involved in taking down and setting back up the technology equipment for the new office. The original installers are experienced with all the nuances of your technology and have the best knowledge of how it all fits together. It is very difficult for a technology company, or even the practice owner, who is not very familiar with what all the equipment is, how it is setup, and how it all works together, to come in and take it down properly and put it all back together to work again in the new space.

If a medical practice operates from more than one location, it may be necessary to install new networking equipment so that there is a secure and HIPAA compliant connection between the two or more offices so that data can flow between them in a secure way. This is much easier to coordinate with a good technology consultant that can guide you through purchasing the right equipment, getting the correct services from your internet provider, and successfully setting up the connection.

Most technology companies, like moving companies, will charge for services that include transporting and setting up your technology equipment. Considering that “technology equipment” in most cases is inclusive of all your patient information, this is most certainly worth the investment. Since most moving companies do not operate with proper knowledge of how medical technology works, expensive equipment can get thrown in a truck, damaged, exposed to high or low temperatures that will affect its performance, dropped, or mishandled in such a way that affects your ability to see patients.

What about other moves that aren’t physical, such as acquired practices?

Acquiring practices will require sometimes tricky situations. If the practice that is being acquired has technology, it may require an upgrade or additions to become part of your practice. If the practice is also acquiring the patient data, decisions will need to be made on how you that data will be accessed. Are you going to convert it and import it into your own data? Are you going to setup access to be able to see both systems side by side? These are important questions to ask.

Advice for medical practices making a move.

Reach out to your IT support company early on to find out if they offer services to help during your move. They can properly help your plan. One of the biggest mistakes a medical practice can make is to not include IT support early enough. This can affect how long your system is down, where you can locate your equipment, and how the equipment will perform when it is ready to use in your new space.

Keep IT Simple can help you as early as the blueprint planning stage to be sure that you are building out exactly what you want, for exactly what you need, so that it works and looks great. We have the experience and knowledge to work with your architect, contractors, cabinet installers, electricians, and low-voltage installers. We work with your staff to help provide an easy transition that is safe for your patients’ valuable information.

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