(661) 281-4000

Is Cost Holding You Back?

Managing expenses is one of the core tasks of any business owner or manager. Nothing is free, so if you want to keep the lights on and your office staffed, you need to know what’s coming in and what you’re paying out.

But to run operations profitably, you might find yourself having to prioritize your expenses. When you do that, what gets bumped up-front and what gets pushed to the back? A mistake that many businesses — especially medical offices — make is to give IT a lower priority.

In this blog, using medical offices as our example, we’ll discuss why most offices tend to place too low of a priority on their IT budget and what can happen as a consequence if they’re not careful.

Why Such a Low Priority?

Many types of businesses think nothing of dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on diagnostic machines or specialty equipment, yet they drag their feet when it comes to upgrading outdated computer terminals. In all honesty, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise as CEO’s often have an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. After all, how often have you been to a doctor’s office and have seen a scale that looked like it was manufactured during the Nixon administration?

While imaging systems and other medical equipment offer tangible benefits to physicians when caring for their patients, some feel that if the computer system can still do what it’s supposed to be doing, then what’s the point of upgrading or expanding? Additionally, and we’re just being frank here, new medical equipment can often mean more money in the pocket of the practice, whereas giving the reception desk updated terminals doesn’t seem to offer any real profit.

That being said, there are other reasons for not wanting to upgrade other than just dollars and cents. For instance, finding good hardware or software can be difficult as everything used needs to be HIPPA compliant — something that not every system can claim. As a result, upgrading can be a nightmare, especially when the current system that’s being used was installed decades ago.

The High Cost of Low Budgets

With many types of investments, including IT purchases, the less you pay upfront, the more you’ll pay in the future. In the example mentioned above of the old scale, as long as it’s accurate, it doesn’t matter how old it is since it does its job. But if you’re running older computer systems that don’t have modern safety protocols, for example, your system is exceptionally vulnerable to attacks.

While hackers wanting to steal credit card numbers is no surprise, what is surprising is the apparent value of medical records being sold inside the dark web. In last May alone, there were 28 reports of hacks stealing more than 500 records from medical systems nationwide. HHS’ Office for Civil Rights reports a 59% year-over-year increase in these sorts of attacks, with much of it blamed on outdated systems and hardware. Not only is it difficult for the patients whose privacy has been violated, but it also opens up these healthcare providers to a sea of liability.

In addition to security risks, you may also face the risk of being left behind. Patients are now treated at a higher level of service than ever before. For instance, who ten years ago could have ever dreamt of a world where you could receive your test results at the same time your doctor does, on your phone? These and many other services can be provided via patient portals, which are a major example of how the future is now alive in healthcare. A significant emphasis has been made making patients and doctors partners and the only way to do this is by easy access to information.

Lastly, modern IT just makes everything move faster. Whether it be billing, insurance claims, scheduling, or any other aspect of running a medical facility, there’s no doubt that the fewer resources that are dedicated to non-medical tasks, the better and faster your patients can be cared for.

Modern Solutions to Modern Challenges

Even with all these benefits made clear, the challenge is still in the acquisition, implementation, and upkeep of a modern IT solution that will work best for your operation. With so many options at so many price levels, it can be a major undertaking to know what will work best for you.

That’s where a quality Managed Service Provider comes into play. MSPs work well with healthcare organizations since we do all the IT work for you, allowing you to get back to taking care of your patients. We go over what you currently have and work within your needs and budget to see what will make your office run at top efficiency.

By using our experience and know-how, we cure your issues so you can cure the rest of the community.

At a business lunch a few months ago. Someone told us about a technique he likes to use during his daily employee meetings. At the beginning of their meetings, he has all attendees take turns telling everyone something good that happened. It can be something personal, professional, a joke, anything that shines a positive light on something worth sharing. They started this tradition long before the woes of 2020. It has become even more important recently as it starts off every meeting on a positive tone. We don’t need to tell you that this year hasn’t been the best one yet. We also don’t want to focus on that. While brainstorming this week’s blog topic, we thought, why not expand the tradition and share a positive note for small businesses. So, here’s our “Something Good.”

Backbone of America

Statistically, more people work for small businesses than corporations in America. We are truly the lifeblood of the economy. While it may feel like we’ve been taking a beating between being closed/restricted for COVID-19 purposes, and now, in many places, to protect against riots and looting, small businesses will be needed to bring the nation’s economy back. The first half of 2020 likely didn’t live up to your optimistic strategic plan, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for the year. Now is the time to begin digging-in and preparing to make something of the second half of the year, no matter what comes down the pike next.

Treat this as an Opportunity

Recently, we blogged about the 9 things you should do while your business is down. Those are all still relevant, but we want to dive in a bit more on one of these: determine your next offering. There has never been a better time to reinvent yourself.

We’re Here to Help

Many of our clients rely on us to help with their business growth goals through technology and strategic planning. As you’re determining your next move in driving forward or re-inventing yourself to fit the new world order, we are ready to assist, whether you’re looking for hardware, software, business advice, or a listening ear. Together, let’s make this the best comeback year anyone dreamed possible.

Over the past couple of months, everything has changed. Many of these changes will have ongoing impacts on our businesses. As we begin to see businesses looking toward their futures again. It’s time to take a look at the state of the union. Particularly where things stand with technology, communication, and the workforce of the future.

Shifts in Communication

A popular meme at the beginning of this pandemic said, “we’ll now see which meetings really could be emails.” While we have seen our clients tighten up their communication by shifting to chat platforms like Teams, we’ve noticed an even greater shift toward video communication. In fact, webcams flew off the shelves so quickly that some are still back-ordered. More practical video conferencing ushered in new etiquette expectations for surviving the new workplace, and we expect continued heavy use of video conferencing moving forward. Many offices have seen it is a much more efficient, yet personable way to gather teams together. See the whites of people’s eyes, and check-in on both a personal and productivity level. We highly recommend gathering with your teams on video chat daily. Twice a day if possible. Even as people return to the office. Maintain these meetings to sustain connections, particularly if you have a hybrid workforce with some in office and some remote.

A Note on Web Cams

Webcams are a fantastic lens into your employees’ and clients’ worlds; however, hackers also love to access webcams. They’ll install a backdoor virus on your system through social engineering, a link you clicked, or they could be phishing for information. Then use the stolen info to turn on your webcam without your permission or your knowledge. We recommend limiting the platforms that have permission to utilize your webcam, as well as utilizing a webcam cover when you’re not actively on camera (a sticky note or opaque tape will even work in a pinch).

Rising Safety Concerns

Nefarious hackers are taking advantage of the confusion, frustration, and fear surrounding COVID-19. Social engineering attempts are on the rise as they use COVID-19 related “news” to lure people into giving up their information. People working from home traditionally don’t have enterprise-grade firewalls and anti-virus protection. If you continue to work from home during and post-pandemic, bear in mind these seven necessities.

You also need to consider where the pandemic ranks on your disaster-preparedness planning. Prior to this event, you probably hadn’t considered what would happen if you had to scramble to get all of your employees working remotely or how to keep business operational in a curbside pick-up-only world. Now’s the time to make sure you document your plan. Write down what you did well this time, and what you would change should something like this ever happen again. We have no excuse to enter another pandemic unprepared. Next time, businesses should be able to continue much more smoothly.

Events in Motion

Many industries live and die by their conferences. Some have chosen to cancel in-person meetings for the foreseeable future, while others have pivoted to online platforms. An online event cannot take the place of everyone meeting up at a bar for networking or cruising the tradeshow floor looking for your next business investment. However, we highly recommend embracing the growing virtual event culture.

Lunch and Learns can be moved to webinars. Training events can be moved to streamed sessions. In-person casino nights can translate to online bingo games and video karaoke. We may have gone a little too far with that last one, but the point is, when the world changes we need to embrace the technology. Connections do not have to suffer due to diminished in-person events. You just have to choose the right platform and continue to move forward, which is something we can help you with technologically. 

Where is the workforce heading

A recent Gallup poll indicates that between March 13 and March 30, the percentage of people working remotely increased from 31% to 62% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that people are starting to return to offices, 60% would prefer to continue to work from home. Employers who create adaptable work environments will be more likely to keep their top employees and maintain a positive work environment than those who make rigid demands to bring everyone back to the office. Flexible and remote work is the future, whether business owners want to admit it or not.

On the plus side, there will be less need for high overhead office space, upkeep, and on-site framework. On the other hand, employers will have to make a significant investment in culture, productivity tracking, and cloud infrastructure to ensure their teams remain productive. Now is the time to set your remote work policies, determine who and how people can work from home, and create your technology roadmap to keep your remote and on-site workforce on the leading edge.

A Note About Perfect Attendance Culture

Regardless of how you decide to handle remote work globally, decide what you want people to do when they are sick. A traditional “we’ll rest when we’re dead, as long as you still have a pulse come to the office” mentality is not going to work moving forward. First, it’s bad for the health of all of your employees. Second, some individuals are going to be more sensitive to hearing coughs and sniffles in the office; which will impact how often they, in turn, call in sick, or if they’ll leave for greener pastures with more flexible policies. Third, this strange time has provided a glimpse of the potential impact of communicable disease.

It’s time to truly believe and enforce the “if you’re sick, stay home” philosophy. Thankfully, remote work means staying home doesn’t halt all work if an employee feels up to it; but be sensitive to the importance of rest. Put in place a clear policy of when you expect people to stay home when they can work from home (minor illness, family member illness), and when you expect them to take legitimate sick time.

The Bottom Line

We are anxious for everyone to get back to work in however they feel safest. Maybe continuing to work from home, bringing in a skeleton crew, or hitting things full force with your entire staff. Regardless of your path forward. We know that adjustments need to be made to ensure your technology, culture, and strategy are ready for this new-age. May this state of the union point you in the right direction.

As this COVID-19 crisis drags on, we’ve noticed a few new habits amongst our clients. Some have taken this opportunity to get their business in order and prepare for a resurgence. Some are just gritting their teeth and holding on. Nearly all of them have increased their time on social media. In addition to typical surfing, we’re seeing dramatic increases in people filling out those pesky Facebook quizzes about their first loves, childhood homes, mother’s maiden names, and other little-known facts. These quizzes seem innocent enough at first; however, they are a hacker’s dream. In fact, most of these quizzes are planted by hackers in hopes that people fill them out, innocently reveal their security question answers, and create an easy target to breach. Here are a few tips to keep safe.
  1. Just say no. We know we sound like a Debbie-Downer here, but it’s safest to just avoid Facebook quizzes altogether. Let’s paint the picture. Recently, there was a push to post your graduation photo and year “in support of 2020 graduates.” This sounds like a cute idea, but there’s a dark side. Hackers now have three pieces of information that are common security questions: where you went to high school, what year you graduated, and your high school mascot (they can easily look this up based on the information provided). Your support of graduates just opened you up to hacking. Sure, this doesn’t give up your username and password, but hackers might already have this information based on some previous phishing attempt or breach of a major database (think Target, medical records, or social media profile leaks). Now, they have the secondary layer of protection to your personal data. Alternatively, they use this information to create fake Facebook profiles that appear believable. Then, they send a bunch of friend requests to your existing friends and use it to harvest their personal data when they accept.
  2. Pretend everything you post is public. Regardless of your privacy settings, pretend that Facebook is a wall in the grungiest bathroom on your last road trip. Is this information that you would like posted on that wall? When you excitedly shared about your daughter’s first car, you revealed her security question information. You nostalgically told a story about your childhood neighborhood, there was another security question. It doesn’t matter if your profile is private or not. Hackers will find away.
  3. Give Fake Security Question information. If you just cannot refrain from taking these Facebook quizzes or posting, give fake information for your security challenge questions. For example, if the security question asks where you met your significant other, put something completely incorrect. Make sure it’s something that you will remember, but it shouldn’t be something that hackers could find published online.
Social media opens up privacy concerns that we’ve never had to consider before. We recognize that there is no turning back and becoming a recluse isn’t an option. Through this crisis and beyond, take every precaution you can to protect yourself, protect your business, and protect your identity.

Many businesses and people are struggling as the COVID-19 Pandemic. Closures of restaurants and bars, canceled events, and other restrictions force our society to practice social-distancing. In this time of need, we, as a group, are more prepared than most other industries to help our clients maintain their businesses through this crisis. As an MSP, we brand ourselves as partners to our clients, and now is the time for us to step up and help you, our partners.

These are scary times. Many businesses are closing their doors to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, businesses like restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and movie theaters cannot operate remotely because they count on patrons walking into their facilities. But certain sections of other businesses, like accounting, law, and even parts of the medical and dental fields can utilize the efforts of remote employees.

Much like the disaster recovery plans, we offer for technology, we can also help with the back-up solution of setting up people to work from home. We deal with remote employees daily, so it is something we’re used to figuring out and operating smoothly.

We also regularly use the internet to communicate with each other using platforms like GoToMeeting, Skype, and Facetime. Around this office we have daily meetings with remote employees, so we’re used to setting up access for meetings and special events.

The technology on our side allows us to maintain productivity and ensure life will continue at a somewhat normal clip. With that being said, we believe there are three key reasons why technology will pull us all through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

  1. Remote Work Capabilities: You may have never dreamed you’d be writing up your next big report with your child sitting next to you playing their online educational game, but here we are. Many employers have sent their employees to work from home in an effort to quell the spread of COVID-19. With strong remote access or VPN, work continues without a great deal of interruption.
  2. Virtual Events/Streaming: Events organizers across the country are canceling, postponing, or moving events online. Technology allows these events to continue without major hiccups. Artists taking to Facebook Live to perform, speakers moving to platforms like Zoom or YouTube, and church services across the world streaming, only reveals the tip of the iceberg when it comes to streaming technology.
  3. Communication: Video chat, online messaging, email, and phone communication will keep the world connected through this difficult time. We’ll quickly see how important it is to connect with our fellow man for work, pleasure, and sanity.

During these trying times, it is our job, as IT professionals, to help those who are in need. Whatever we can do to help our local businesses keep their heads above water will only make our community stronger. People helping people, and professionals helping businesses stay open.

It is unknown how long drastic measures stemming from COVID-19 will last, but with technology on our side, thankfully the world will continue to progress.