AAO 2017: 4 Ways to Prevent IT Rip-Offs

April 22, 2017
Joe Hannan

Your IT service provider might be ripping you off, doctor. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Steve McEvoy, CEO of MME Consulting, described four common IT rip-offs that he’s seen hurt dentists, in his continuing education session, titled “The Love/Hate Relationship with our Computers: Come Get Some Love,” at the American Association of Orthodontists 2017 Annual Session on Saturday, April 21 in San Diego. For each of these four common rip-offs, there’s a way to defend yourself. Here’s how.

Every dental practice needs a nerd in its corner, especially if the dentist doesn’t want to get ripped off.

That was Steve McEvoy’s message during his continuing education session on Saturday, April 21 at the American Association of Orthodontists 2017 Annual Session in San Diego. McEvoy, who is the president of MME Consulting, spoke as part of a theme of lectures, called Mega Trends for Doctors & Ortho Team. His lecture, titled “The Love/Hate Relationship with our Computers: Come Get Some Love,” focused on a megatrend that is negatively affecting dental and orthodontic practices: IT rip-offs.

“I spend every day in practices as a nerd,” McEvoy said, noting that he uses the term lovingly. “I learn the fixes so you don’t have to make the mistakes.”

One of those mistakes, McEvoy said, is putting too much trust in your IT team.

“What do IT people and mosquitoes have in common? They’re blood-sucking leaches,” he said with some sarcasm.

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There are opportunities for IT people to take advantage of doctors, either to cut corners or to save money. Most IT people, McEvoy said, are trustworthy, but there are some “that can reach out and exploit you.

Here are four common ways dentists and orthodontists are getting ripped off.

1. Software licensing: Sometimes, McEvoy said, IT people will sell their customers software that they don’t deliver. The software might be operating on your computer, but is it properly licensed? If it isn’t, a disgruntled employee, a competitor, or an old IT person you’ve parted ways with, could turn you in to Microsoft, leaving you on the hook for potentially tens of thousands of dollars in fines. You need to physically possesses the licenses, McEvoy said. A sales receipt isn’t sufficient proof. Many times, McEvoy said, IT people will sell you the software but never give you the physical license so that they can reuse it.

Your best defense is to ask your IT person to perform a license audit. Tell him or her you want a physical copy of each one, then keep them all in one place in case Microsoft comes knocking.

2. Ransomware: McEvoy provided an example of just how widespread a problem ransomware is. Logging into the system he uses to monitor security for his clients, he showed how one of his client’s practices had repelled 1,200 cyberattacks from Russia in the past 24 hours. This, he said, was not atypical, and it was not specific to this one client. Typically, McEvoy said, hackers will use ransomware to hijack your patient data, then encrypt the data with a password only they know, grinding your practice to a halt. They’ll then demand payment in Bitcoin, which is untraceable, for you to get your patient data back.

To defend your practice, McEvoy said you need to use a Unified Threat Management internet firewall, which will screen incoming emails from ransomware, as well as stop you before you navigate to a dangerous site. You can also enable geoblocking with a UTM, which will allow you to restrict all access from a specific country, such as China or Russia, which are sources of many ransomware attacks.

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3. Selling you hardware: Many times, your IT provider will try to sell you hand-built PCs. He or she will say that these PCs will be built exactly to your practice’s specifications and will be cheaper than name brands, such as Dell or HP. What they’re not telling you is that by selling you a hand-built PC, they’ve effectively made you a customer for life, because only they can fix it. Also, you’re limited in the event of needing a part replaced, McEvoy explained. Major PC makers stockpile parts for years. Your IT provider doesn’t. Furthermore, McEvoy has seen IT providers sell PCs to dentists that they say are brand new, but are refurbished.

To avoid this rip-off, McEvoy says you should always demand new, name-brand equipment.

“Ask your IT person to sell you a major brand name,” he said. “This is even more important for your server.”

4. Cloud storage: It’s a wonderful thing, McEvoy said, but cloud storage, such as DropBox or Google Drive, can really mess up your internet connection. Synching to the cloud requires a ton of upload bandwidth, so much so that it can cripple an internet connection. He gave this example: Say you’re using DropBox to share files among PCs in your practice. You upload a bite wing image, it gets beamed up to the loud, then out to each of your 10 office PCs. It’s no wonder things get slow whenever you attempt to do this. The same thing can happen with scheduled file backups.

Your best defense in this instance is again, your UTM. Your IT support provider can use the UTM to see when uploads are spiking, crippling your internet connection. He or she can then manually set the percentage of upload bandwidth that each application can use, or schedule backups for times that don’t fall during business hours.

Discover more Dentist’s Money Digest conference coverage here.

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