The role of the Service Desk is mission-critical in ways it has never been before.

As a healthcare patient using a portal, I knew my request was minor. But as CEO of a company that delivers healthcare IT workforce solutions to 250 hospitals across the U.S., I knew the problem — and business opportunity — was mission-critical.

I logged in to my healthcare portal recently and accessed a tab showing my historical vitals. Surprisingly, the screen displayed my weight in kilograms, not pounds. Assuming most U.S. citizens prefer English over metric measurements, I looked for a simple preference switch on the portal but could not find one. The Service Desk number was hard to locate, but shortly after 5 PM I found it and called.

The Rise of Patient-Facing Tools

Admittedly, my need was not weighty — kilograms-to-pounds isn’t life-or-death. But the way health systems support patient-facing technologies today is a huge issue that affects patient satisfaction, hospital credibility, EHR ROI, health IT employee turnover and more. When a patient accesses a health portal, that hospital’s service and reputation are on the line.

This matters greatly because EHR adoption is nearing 100% among hospitals and physician offices. At the same time, digital services are giving patients fast access to health information, according to Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends report. Patients literally have power at their fingertips to take ownership over their care. We are still in the early stages of patient-facing technology adoption, the report says, but tools such as mobile health tracking, wearables and live video telemedicine are here to stay.

This is great news! Greater awareness, understanding and engagement in the proactive management of one’s health intuitively should help create better wellness outcomes.

We presume our experiences using those tools will be frictionless, personalized and easy. But what happens when patients have questions, as I did? Also, what happens when the rigors of meaningful use stage 3 take hold, and questions arise from a broader population of patients, clinicians and employees? What happens when those questions aren’t about simply converting kilograms to pounds, but rather how to best understand and manage your health metrics for a recent diagnosis?

When the clock is ticking for answers, calls keep coming in. The average hospital requires 72 changes per month affecting 135 EHR functions, as this Kaiser study reported. Without the right skill sets and resources, well-intentioned Help Desk teams can be left feeling “helpless.”

The Need for Higher Standards

My call was answered by an analyst who said he had never received a similar request. I was given a ticket number and was told someone would help me in the morning — anyone who might know the answer had left for the day. “Expect a call back tomorrow,” he said.

The next day came and went. The silence was frustrating, but IT Help Desks can struggle with soft skills, so I remained patient. But the 24/7 digital service culture from consumer-first companies like Amazon and Uber, have changed consumer expectations about ongoing status updates and express delivery. My request was far from life-threatening. But if the Service Desk team has not been a central focus for hospitals’ patient experience efforts, many team members may not be trained to create positive experiences nor certified by groups like HDI that teach clear communication, conflict resolution and other best practices.

I called back the following morning. After reviewing my ticket number, a second analyst with seemingly little empathy told me his team probably could not handle the conversion request. He said the original analyst should have called me back. Now, more than two months later, no one has officially closed the loop on the issue.

My ticket was about kilograms and pounds, but the opportunity here is on a different type of scale — and highlights how strong IT customer support is crucial to accommodating ongoing hospital growth and enhancing brand reputation. It’s difficult for leaders to concentrate on big-picture goals like data integration, predictive analytics and technology optimization when they are scrambling to answer first level questions like mine.

The Best Approach Often is to Partner with Specialized Best of Breed Providers

Patients deserve top care when they’re online or on the phone, not just when they’re in a waiting room or on a bed. The tools they use generate benefits only when supported by experienced, skilled, service-oriented professionals.

That is why for many hospitals today, the best answer is partnering with a group that acts as an extension of the hospital’s IT team. The right Service Desk partnership can completely support patient-facing tools, freeing the IT team to focus on optimizing those tools, improving quality, functionality and ROI for the EHR and ultimately creating higher patient satisfaction.

At HCTec, we have a large Managed Services business unit that acts as an extension of hospitals’ IT departments, providing 24-hour Service Desk and Application Support delivered by certified and highly skilled U.S.-based staff in our physical application support centers. During an average month, our 200-person team professionally supports about 45,000 EHR users and handles 1,600 service requests and 3,500 maintenance tasks.

Meanwhile, we believe clients should be able to measure the impact of their Managed Services choice. To that end, we collaborate with them to establish service level agreements (SLAs) that define and prioritize goals. These custom SLAs are continually tracked and communicated.

Portals and other tools have raised the bar for patient engagement. They don’t really raise eyebrows, though, unless they’re effectively supported. That’s why so many health systems are now giving a well-trained, high-quality Service Desk the weight it deserves.

To learn more about HCTec’s Managed Services offerings, click here.