Effective IT Service Desks Essential for Healthcare Operational Efficiency

Jim Giordano, President and CEO, CareTech Solutions
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Jim Giordano, President and CEO, CareTech Solutions

As healthcare organizations seek methods to improve efficiency, they may want to start by evaluating their IT service desk. With physicians and other providers under tremendous time and quality pressures, the last thing they need is delays due to the organization’s IT software, equipment or networks. If they do have a question, the IT service desk needs resolve that issue on the first call.

Rapid and effective IT service desk resolutions, however, are a challenge when a healthcare organization only utilizes its internal IT support staff. Not only are experienced, qualified support agents in short supply, but fully staffing a service desk with these professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week is even more difficult and costly. In addition, due to time and budgetary limitations, ample training and education for IT service desk support is not always feasible.

Outsourcing the IT service desk functions to a partner focused on healthcare providers may be the answer to these challenges. An experienced, qualified IT service desk partner can be a cost-effective method of improving efficiency, but also physician satisfaction and clinical quality performance. An advanced IT service desk partner can also offer IT monitoring services to help detect and prevent technical problems before clinicians and staff is impacted. This results in clinicians spending less time on technology-related interruptions and more time with patients.

Understanding hospital workflows

Effective IT service desk support starts with understanding hospitals’ unique workflows. In many cases, a hospital’s internal IT support staff have only recently been trained on the hospital’s core IT systems and lack the deep understanding of healthcare clinical and business operations. This inexperience may result in simple service calls escalating to a service desk manager, wasting more time and leading to greater physician frustration.

Experienced IT service desk partners that are focused on healthcare understand the common issues that physician and provider users face because they have developed the extensive knowledge base serving hospitals all over the country. In addition, when the partner is large enough, they can offer that higher level of expertise around the clock regardless of the hospital’s time zone.

With IT service desk support as their core mission, experienced partners offer an in-depth level of training to their agents, as well as proprietary analytic support tools to access during support calls. Many hospitals would not be able to make this level of investment in training and analytics with budget restrictions, time limitations and the need to have new service desk agents start working as soon as possible to fill job vacancies.

Monitoring Detects Problems Before it Impacts Providers

A hospital’s IT department has multiple competing priorities; resolving end users’ support questions is only one part of its mission. Having so many simultaneous initiatives makes it challenging for hospitals to proactively address IT software, equipment or network issues before workflows are impacted.

Leading outsourced IT service desk partners have invested in monitoring tools that measure the performance of a hospital’s core applications, equipment and networks. These tools can detect when the technology is not performing within the hospital’s expectations. At that point, the service desk analysts begin investigating and often resolve potential issues before the end-user even realizes there was a problem, which can have a significant financial impact.

For example, a 2016 survey showed that healthcare organizations’ data center outages cost an average of $8,851 per minute, up from $5,617 in 2010. By proactively monitoring these data centers and fixing potential issues before an outage occurs, a hospital could save $740,357.

Healthcare Experience and Qualifications Essential

The risk in working with an IT service desk partner is that capabilities and experience of these firms vary widely. Hospitals should consider IT service desk partners that have at least 15 years of experience devoted exclusively to healthcare and can support all mission-critical technology. Experience includes time, but also the volume of calls it receives each year. Partners that resolve at least 2 million calls annually for their customers will ensure that the company has the knowledge base to support an organization’s IT needs.

Hospitals should also seek partners that can offer a high-level of technical support to end users around the clock, all year long. A company that has earned recognition for superior IT support and customer service from KLAS or other independent rating organizations is another good indicator of a reliable partner.

With the right IT service desk partner, hospitals can help optimize their IT investments, which, according to a survey from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, is what 70 percent of its members are focused on in 2016. More importantly, however, with fewer IT issues slowing physicians down and interfering with workflows, hospitals can operate more efficiently and better deliver high-quality patient care.

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