Thank you for being a part of the HCTec community!  In this new feature, I share my thoughts from our unique position in supporting many of the most forward-thinking hospital networks in the country. Here you will learn best practices and “what’s next?” trends that we are seeing from our distinguished client base.

Let’s begin with an assessment of your IT help desk. Enterprise EMR systems have greatly extended their reach to increasingly broader populations of hospital staff, as well as to patient populations requiring patient engagement through a portal. Meaningful use stage 3 raises the bar even further to meet objectives ranging from secure protection of PHI to free health information exchange. In this environment, support needs for your patients and employees become very different than the services typically provided by a traditional IT help desk.

Of course, you want to provide high quality technical support to your hospital staff, but stop for a moment and think about the added level of soft skills and customer service needed to respond to inquiries from your patients. I called my credit card company last week and the agent warmly greeted me, thanked me for being a long-time customer, and reminded me I could get a free copy of my credit report and score. The bar for customer service is continuing to rise—is your IT help desk prepared to meet the elevated standard?

Additionally, conduct an honest assessment of how well-equipped your help desk team is to handle cases with greatly varying levels of technical competency and literacy found in the patient arena versus those emanating from your hospital staff. New remote troubleshooting challenges will present as patients operate on a wide array of mobile and desktop hardware often different than your hospital environment. Your hours of operation and resource needs also will expand with 24/7 support and patient inquiry volume increases coming outside of standard work days and business hours.

While your current patient inquiry volume may still be low, it will undoubtedly increase with the new rigors of meaningful use combined with the natural progression of patient portal registration and adoption. Is your IT help desk prepared and properly resourced?

Looking further, be sure not to underestimate the impact of these expanded needs on your skilled technicians. Since the new systems require specialized knowledge, skilled resources are often drawn into the support process. When highly skilled staff members are required to take on additional tasks to support and maintain the system in lieu of optimizing it, those unexpected tasks cause inefficiency which eventually leads to heightened employee dissatisfaction and an increase in staff turnover. To replace those departed employees, our clients estimate the average required time to get a new full-time employee to an acceptable level of productivity at six months, with an approximate cost of $170,000 all in.

In summary, the skill set required to support your EMR inquiries is much more specialized than what you are likely supporting today in-house. The largest buckets of your help desk inquiries are probably still routine business application and password reset requests. And for broader customer support, you are probably fielding billing inquiries, lab result requests and scheduling changes. Navigating the complexities of your new EMR is a much different ballgame, with greater complexity and specialized training required.

If this sounds like an opportunity to you, let’s connect to discuss, or you can check out HCTec’s recent webinar.