How Much Should Your Dental Practice Expect To Pay For IT Services?
Looking for a new IT services company for your dental practice?
How much should you pay for dental practice IT support?
Treating patients in your clinical facility and overseeing management of the business end of your dental practice amounts to more than a full-time job. Trying to also manage your own IT can cause slippage in either patient treatment quality, legal compliance, or proper maintenance of IT systems—or all three. After all, there are only so many hours in the day.
There’s not just the challenge of devoting time to myriad routine IT management and maintenance tasks, as necessary to keep your network systems, applications, and data storages secure and running properly over time. There is also the challenge of knowing what to do for quality IT management.
Having an experienced IT management specialist, with the skills necessary for set up and management of specialized dental IT systems is the most practical way for small to medium-sized dental practices to manage their IT.
Managed IT Services for dental offices include managing your network, integrated dental practice management platform, individual applications, HIPAA compliant administrative processes, dental office operating practices and policies (including security, best practices for IT use, etc.,). It also includes routine updating and upgrading of all of these, to keep them current and interacting properly with ever-evolving external network systems.
So, the question remains—how much should you expect to pay for services from a dental IT management/support company. Here’s some key information to help you make an informed decision on outsourcing IT services for your dental practice.
How Much Should IT Services Cost for Dental Practices?
Prices can vary so much between service providers that it’s not very useful to provide the dramatic-looking range here. Ultimately, the price you will receive from a good IT services provider will mostly be due to the unique needs of your dental practice and the level of service coverage you choose. There are several common IT services pricing model options, which we’ll explain in a minute, to suit the extent of service you choose.
However, to select the most appropriate IT services for your needs, and to get the most value for the amount you budget for your IT, there are several important things to be aware of when obtaining prices, which we’ll explain below.
Why Do Dental Professionals Really Need Outsourced Dental IT Services?
An IT system for a small to medium-sized dental office needs the same level of protection from external threats like viruses and information thieves as any other organization that manages client data.
Cyber–crime against small businesses and professional practices is rampant, because hackers are especially attracted to systems they assume are less well protected. So, it is especially critical for dental practices to ensure security of Protected Patient Information, per HIPAA law.
Dental practices are required by law to ensure HIPAA compliance, at risk of shocking financial penalties for breaches. Not to mention the risk of reputational damage from being listed on HHS.gov as a dental practice that has had a HIPAA breach.
The above are all concerns adding to the more fundamental matters of maintaining efficient patient record keeping, billing, communications and a smooth patient experience.
It’s more than a dental professional, an office manager can manage long-term without serious risk to security, operational continuity and patient service quality. And, the lonely IT guy that a small to medium-sized dental practice may hire typically costs more than Managed IT Services, is not available on off-time or sick-time, and lacks the resources of continually updated industry knowledge and technology and purchasing discounts that an IT services company brings to dental office IT management.
How are IT Services Priced by IT Support Companies?
When choosing an IT services provider for your dental practice, pick one that offers the value in specialized services for dental practices that you need, not just the one with the lowest (or highest) price quote. And, keep an eye out for hidden fees and unusually long-term contracts that may lock you into a financial obligation that can weaken your position if IT service quality diminishes over time.
With the above caveats in mind, expect to encounter one or more of the several typical pricing models below for Managed IT Services for your dental practice.
Pricing Models for Dental IT Services
IT services providers’ pricing are usually structured according to one of the three arrangements described below. Some may offer combinations of two or more of these, or may offer a choice between these:
- Billing Per Service Call — This is billing for the time and materials used to complete an individual service request (also called “break-fix” IT services). For example, this service model can be used when IT equipment needs repair, or a professional IT service is needed to counteract the effects of hacking, remove a virus, upgrade your network, or perform any other work that has an expected date for completion.
- Managed IT Services — In this pricing arrangement, your IT services company serves as your own outsourced “IT department.” This includes installations, server, computer workstations, devices, software, IT network and office phone system support. All IT management responsibilities that you would expect from an experienced on-site IT team, including system security, virus protection, file backup and recovery, web hosting, cloud services, monitoring, reporting, and others are provided to maintain the performance and security of your systems.
- Vendor’s Software Support — Software manufacturers often offer their own IT Help Desk support for customers, for an added fee. These services are normally limited to helping resolve issues in the particular application purchased, and do not extend to your other applications, network and devices. This is not the full-service level of IT support that a dental practice needs in order to keep running incident-free.
Managed IT Services and break-fix pricing models are the two that you’ll likely be considering when exploring IT support options for your dental office. So, the question becomes—how to get the particular services you need without paying for unnecessary added services, hidden fees, or inflated contract prices. At this point, the thing to do is consider the advantages and disadvantages of each of the two most popular pricing models.
Managed IT Services
- The professional dental IT specialist provides for all IT systems and equipment management and Help Desk support needs of the dental practice, helping ensure maximum efficiency and productivity.
- You know how much your IT is going to cost, so you can rely on your budget. Only one fee covers all of your dental office’s IT management services, such as:
- Frequent Security Updates (firewall maintenance, anti-spyware, anti-malware)
- Virus Protection (diligent whole office system monitoring)
- HIPAA Compliance Management
- Help Desk Support (often 24/7, rapid response and resolution)
- Network Monitoring (server and other drive space, optimizing network speed)
- Data Backup and Recovery (quick response for file recovery)
- Web Hosting (for both cloud and hardware server)
- Email Administration (spam filtering, user access and permissions setups)
- Training (user training on HIPAA compliance, dental software applications)
- Reporting (Range of reports of indicators regarding HIPAA strengths and weaknesses, systems optimization options, and more)
- Office Phone Systems
- Preventive IT management and monitoring is overall likely to be more cost-effective over time, proactively addressing issues before they become serious problems requiring emergency IT solutions that can be very expensive.
- Having your own outsourced IT department helps ensure the best possible experience for your dental patients and employees, and enhances the quality of work lifestyle for you, the dental professional.
- You pay a periodic fee for IT management services, even if you don’t have a problem that interrupts services during that time.
- IT costs for a year, for example, may be more than you might pay if you don’t need to call for professional IT support for the entire year.
Break-Fix IT Services
- You only pay for precisely the services that you receive for purposes of immediate equipment or systems repair, upgrade, update, or other diagnosed need.
- You don’t pay a periodic fee for IT services, whether you have a problem that interrupts operations or not.
- Your system is vulnerable and not protected by diligent monitoring and management by an IT expert.
- If/when a major IT problem emerges, due to a breach in security or other protective programs, your budget can be blown by unexpected and very expensive emergency IT service to get your dental practice’s normal operations back up and running properly.
Potential Hidden Fees and Service Exclusions
Don’t grant access to any part of your IT equipment or system to an IT services provider until you are thoroughly clear on these points:
- Scope of Work — Get a thoroughly detailed scope of planned work. Make sure estimate clearly specifies what the IT services provider understands as a successful solution in your case.
- Documented Expectations — Be sure that the contractor also clearly understands your expectations for the rate of the workflow, security measures, access arrangements, costs, and outcomes. This will help avoid miscommunications and unexpected increases in fees later in order to get you what you actually want.
- Documented Fixed Price Agreement — Get the price commitment in writing before any work begins. And, be sure that the outcome that you expect for that price is stated as the requisite for payment.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring an IT Services Company
In addition to getting clear terms, as explained in the above section, to help further ensure against disappointment due to unexpected service exclusions or inflated service costs, be sure to ask your prospective IT support services provider the following questions, before you agree to work with the company.
- Are their phones answered by live operators or voicemail?
- Do they provide a written guarantee of response time to Help Desk calls?
- Do they proactively seek new ways to improve your system’s performance?
- Do they provide thoroughly detailed invoices?
- Do they have sufficient insurance to cover errors and omissions? How about workers’ compensation insurance?
- Do they provide a written guarantee to finish projects on budget? On time?
- Do they monitor your network remotely 24/7 for problems and performance measures?
- Do they provide frequent reporting of security updates, workstations statuses, etc.?
- Is their “all-inclusive” IT support plan actually all-inclusive, or are there an hidden potential costs?
How to Get the Best Value From IT Services For Dentists
As a dental professional, you naturally want to focus your time and energies on your core goal of providing the best possible results and experience for your patients. Avoid having to make yourself a quasi-IT support person as well. Instead just educate yourself on IT support services offerings and pricing. Obtain an IT systems assessment for your dental practice, in order to better understand your office’s unique needs.
Beyond that, just make sure you are clear on precisely what you’re really getting, before committing to an agreement for IT services, in order to avoid unexpected issues and escalating costs later on.
NOVA Computer Solutions, Dental IT Services
For complete information on Dental Practice IT Support and appropriate pricing ranges for dental practice IT management services, call NOVA at (888) 711-3234 to arrange to speak with an expert. As you’re your no-obligation IT systems assessment.
As a consultant to dental practices, I help my clients maximize what can be done with their technology to maximize production and profit.