IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

ASCII Group Adds Telehealth Member Benefit

Offered at no additional cost, the new service provides 24/7 online care from board-certified physicians. Community members learned about the program last week at the organization’s online MSP Connect Live conference (pictured). By Rich Freeman

IT community The ASCII Group has added online healthcare to its list of membership benefits.

Offered in conjunction with a national agency, the telehealth service will give ASCII’s more than 1,300 members 24/7 access to board-certified physicians via phone, secure video, or app, with wait times under 10 minutes. 

The new program, which is available at no additional cost, arrives amid heightened healthcare concerns due to the spread of COVID-19, which also has many people avoiding unnecessary trips to a doctor’s office.

“The number one business request we receive from the MSP community is providing our leverage to lower the cost of health care for business owners and their staff,” said Alan Weinberger, chairman and CEO of The ASCII Group, in a media statement. “We are thrilled to be able to provide this important service to the industry for the first time, and see this as a pivotal moment to enable the service sector of the IT industry to become more profitable and have employees priority needs addressed in a new way.”

Healthcare dispensed through the program will come from doctors licensed to practice medicine and write prescriptions in all 50 states. Spouses and children of ASCII members can use the service as well.

Free telehealth assistance joins a lengthy list of group membership benefits, including discounts on marketing services, software, shipping, cyber-insurance, credit card processing, and more. A member portal, named ASCII-Link and updated in May, provides an online forum for exchanging peer-to-peer thoughts on business and technical issues. Peer groups have been available since last August as well.

Members received advance word of the new telehealth service last week at ASCII’s MSP Connect Live event for members in the New York and New Jersey region. Held online in a virtual format, the conference was designed to facilitate peer-to-peer networking and vendor conversations, both of which are staples of The ASCII Group’s in-person conferences. Like most event organizers in the IT industry, ASCII has switched from face-to-face gatherings to online ones this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sessions at last week’s show covered a range of topics, including how to offer “co-managed IT” services to businesses with in-house technical staff and how to compete in the law enforcement and municipal government markets. 

In addition, ASCII member Corey Kirkendoll, president and CEO of Plano, Texas-based 5K Technical Services, discussed internal security best practices for managed service providers, who typically devote far more attention to protecting customers than themselves. That’s a habit MSPs can no longer afford, according to Kirkendoll, now that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting RMM, PSA, and other operational systems for the rich stockpile of passwords and financial data they contain.

“We get everybody else taken care of and we’re the last ones to take care of us,” he said. “I think that needs to be in reverse.”

Kirkendoll urged his audience to perform rigorous assessments of their security posture, ensure that employees receive security training, and adopt the NIST Cybersecurity Framework or a similar set of guidelines to identify and close gaps in their defenses. His own company hosts “tabletop exercises” that simulate breaches at least once a quarter as well to ensure employees know how to respond should a real incident occur.

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