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Un-complicating Healthcare IT

How A Help Desk Can Help A Healthcare IT Director Operating on Interrupt

Aug 2, 2016 12:03:00 PM Posted by Phil Stravers | Partner, V.P. Strategy & Development

healthcare-IT-managed-services-655411-edited-609850-edited.jpgAn IT Director starts the five-minute walk back to her office after a meeting with leadership about the upcoming year’s IT budget. After being stopped twice by a nurse who needed a password reset and a receptionist with a frozen screen, she finally arrives at her office, thirty-five minutes later. She sits down at her desk with a heavy sigh as she tries to decide which of the 15 different projects to start working on. As she is opening the technical guidelines for their EMR’s next upgrade, her phone rings with a request to help with a querying issue on a new state-required report she would have to get to within the next 24 hours.

“Looks like I’ll be late to Emma’s soccer game again tonight,” she texted her husband. Little did she know, later that night she would also receive a call at 2:14 am about a printer failure in the ER.

It’s impossible for an IT Director to balance the demands of the ever-changing healthcare and IT landscapes while working on interrupt. Healthcare organizations today demand results from IT that drive organizational strategies for efficiency and quality. Creating a disciplined approach to meeting end user requests is a foundational need. Here are some of the key benefits an IT Director operating on interrupt would experience with a structured help desk operation. 

Efficiency of staff time

As an end user, you should be able to make a phone call or create ticket on the issue you’re having and should know that it will be resolved. Clinicians and staff shouldn’t have to keep checking to make sure their problem is being addressed. A good help desk acknowledges that the ticket or request was received, gives updates, and takes care of the problem in a timely manner.

Availability of IT help desk

An IT help desk is going to take front line calls and tickets. While they are the starting point to handle every situation, they don’t actually handle every situation. Proper prioritization and appropriate response time expectations is crucial for the success of IT, clinicians, and patients. There should be an IT resource available whenever an end user has an issue. Healthcare doesn’t stop – it’s 24/7. Whenever there’s a problem, there needs to be some sort of access to IT help, even if it is an on-call team. Response time may vary per incident and time of day, but consistency of approach is critical from how the issue is documented, how it’s prioritized, to how it’s escalated and communicated.  An IT help desk that follows disciplined methods will always produce a more productive IT department and more importantly, a more productive and satisfied end-user community.

Tracking trends and top issues

Through a dedicated IT help desk, you will be able to track categories of calls, top requesters, top incidents, heavy hitter departments, and even individual user heavy hitters. This information will then lead you to identify where the bulk of issues come from – technical issues, user errors, or application issues. Having this information in a dashboard quickly shines a light on what’s going on in your organization, where the root cause may lie, and it creates a platform to identify and reduce future problems.

Faster Issue Resolution

With an IT help desk, some calls may be resolved on first communication but if not, they’ll get resolved based on a priority scale. The ICE Technologies help desk even tracks the percentage of calls getting answered in less than 30 seconds, aiming to have 9/10 calls answered within 30 seconds. The ICE best practice for resolution time is: critical priority issues should be resolved within 8 business hours, high priority resolution should occur within 16 business hours, medium priority within 32 business hours, and low priority within 40 business hours.

Reporting for leadership/the board

Things included in a report to your leadership or hospital board may be a chart of how many tickets were opened and closed that month, average response and resolution time, overview of top issues, where there is need for improvement, etc. For example, if an EHR system increases from two issues per month to twenty, the leadership will want to know about it, why that is happening, and what is being done about it. This helps manage expectations on workload or capacity of the IT department at minimum.

Healthcare Savvy Staff

A crucial element of a help desk is having staff that truly understands healthcare. Help desk staff that is trained to understand the critical IT functions needed in high-pressure situations can ultimately affect the lives of patients. For example, printing can be a critical IT need when the helicopter is on the pad and a patient is about to get transferred to the ED.
If your IT team is working on interrupt day in and day out while trying to manage the complexities of healthcare IT today, it may be worth considering if efficiency could be attained through a well-structured healthcare help desk.
"In the industry, we may talk about outsourcing IT, but I'd rather think about it as importing ICE into our hospital situation. They have become an extension of our staff and having them available on a 24/7 basis through the helpdesk has been a great benefit." - Hospital CEO, ICE Help Desk Client
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Phil Stravers | Partner, V.P. Strategy & Development

Phil Stravers, Partner and EVP of Strategy & Market Development at ICE Technologies, Inc. has been in consulting and management roles within the information technology industry for over 25 years and has spent more than 20 years helping hospitals and clinics “make IT work better”. Phil has had the opportunity to act as an Interim CIO for numerous hospitals which gives him a unique perspective on their challenges and associated solutions. Phil really enjoys sharing lessons learned and frequently presents at various hospital associations, HIMSS events and healthcare board rooms all over the country. In addition to his passion for improving Health IT, he loves baseball (die hard Cubs fan) and has spent more than 15 years coaching young baseball players. Phil lives in Pella, IA and often shares concepts learned from his background in coaching along with the Dutch farm culture and work ethic that his home town is known for.