Typically, you will be completely dependent on your high-speed Internet connection, and may not be able to function without that connection.
There are many potential advantages of using scheduling, billing and office management systems provided by an ASP. All you need is a high-speed Internet connection and a computer with an Internet browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox.
The software and associated data can be accessed from anywhere in the world, meaning you can work with your data and applications from multiple offices, from your home and even when you are traveling.
So, what's not to like about an ASP?
Typically, you will be completely dependent on your high-speed Internet connection, and may not be able to function without that connection. In some circumstances, it might be wise to have both a DSL line and a cable modem, in order to have better assurance of Internet connectivity. You should ask the ASP about "fail-soft" provisions, so that you will have at least partial functionality if you lose your Internet connection.
If your ASP's operations cease for any reason (natural disaster, sabotage, labor dispute, technical malfunction, bankruptcy) you may be in a very difficult position, lacking access to both your data and to the software which is necessary for the operation of your practice and for the care and safety of your patients.
If the service levels, features or price of the ASP's services become a problem, how will you be able to retrieve data from the ASP in a format which can be used by your new software/hardware systems?
These issues should provide you with some talking points if you are negotiating with someone who wants to be your application service provider - and hopefully will reduce the chance that you will be bitten by an ASP.
Dr. Smith is a dermatologist in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org