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CHIME C-Suite Focus Group Recap: How to Maximize Your EHR Investment with Agile IT Support

With in-person conferences cancelled this year, most healthcare leaders have missed the opportunity to network with peers to exchange ideas and pain points impacting their health systems during the pandemic. In coordination with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Stoltenberg Consulting recently gathered 13 healthcare executives to pinpoint best practices for agile IT support to maximize current EHR investments. We've highlighted four major takeaways from the c-suite focus group, starting with IT support team flexibility.

  1. Structuring IT support teams for scope scalability
    The past year in healthcare has underscored a greater need for flexibility within internal IT staffing and strategic partnerships. Whether it's supporting mission critical events like system go lives or EHR new version upgrades or ensuring streamlined workflows as clinical staff respond to COVID-19, IT departments must have quality resources that ebb and flow as necessary. Gartner published that one way to achieve this is through a targeted outsourcing strategy with IT partners who can deliver a flexible yet reliable IT infrastructure on demand. In the past, many hospitals utilized "skeleton crews" on the help desk to get through nights and weekends, which enabled a continuous cycle of extended ticket times and subpar resolution. Others used call rotations for internal analysts to handle during assigned shifts, but this led to quick burnout and high staff turnover. What seemed like cost-cutting initiatives actually propelled resolution cost inflation to fully handle, address education, document, and resolve tickets. Many competitive health systems are expanding help desk scope to include Tier 2, more clinically focused, capability, but some struggle with finding the right resource placements and balancing the allocation of project work versus ticket resolution.

  2. Demonstrating end-user satisfaction and IT alignment even during current pressures
    In the 8th Annual Health IT Industry Outlook Report, when asked which area of IT requires stronger support, 34% of healthcare leaders selected "applicable data analytics insights," while 32% identified the "IT help desk." The nearly equal identification of top needs highlights hospitals' desire for greater understanding of ongoing IT issue trends in combination with more meaningful IT support data insights to mitigate clinical care delays and ultimately improve end-user support outcomes. Additional best practices for incorporating end-user satisfaction into an overarching IT strategy include:

    • Expanding the IT help desk's capability to a larger support scope to avoid the confusing ticket escalation runaround;
    • Emphasizing thorough well-documented multi-format end-user and new hire training;
    • Matching the right staff and skillsets for the right IT support role to ensure issue tickets can be resolved in the first interaction. This also avoid staffing overspend where overqualified staff may be stuck handling password resets for example;
    • Creating a single unified point of contact for IT tickets;
    • Improving help desk performance visibility to executive management;
    • Placing a higher focus on true first-call resolution versus just ticket taking; and
    • Conducting IT support virtual rounding beyond hospital facilities for physician support out to the clinic and physician practice teams to help resolve common issues.

  3. Strategizing remote access best practices moving forward
    For many healthcare organizations across the country, one of the biggest hurdles at the start of the pandemic was handling remote access and getting remote employee groups the support they needed to complete the work from home transition. During this quick shift, oftentimes there was an education gap with users, since many of these teams had not previously been in the remote work category. This caused user hesitancy and uncertainty on how to use the technology, as well as a rise in employee-behavior security risks. While many IT support teams were stretched thin pre-COVID, they now feel like they are treading water to keep up with this new influx of remote user needs and higher call volumes.

  4. Deploying telehealth enablement for care continuation and revenue stabilization
    Expanding beyond the traditional IT help desk, today's service desk hubs are now focusing on telehealth and patient engagement enablement as critical components in the COVID-19 era. To effectively support internal clinicians with virtual care, many health system IT teams across the country rolled out telehealth programs with one-week turnaround, noting frustrations around the need for EHR (especially scheduling) workflow adjustments and customizations in the transition. Initially fearing that virtual appointments would boost no-shows, many have found that the increased utilization of virtual patient reminders has allowed more efficient back-to-back scheduling and patient adherence. On the patient support side, many internally-operated help desks typically cannot handle patient or external end-user inquiries. This can be problematic for issue resolution as patient user groups are not set up in ticketing systems. With IT support teams already short staffed, it can be difficult to manage these additional request since patient user groups may be unfamiliar with applications and require longer call handling times for end-user education. With the shift to telehealth here to stay, healthcare organizations are looking to external help desk options to supplement both patient portal and telehealth enablement for patient engagement efficiency. This tactic ensure more effective utilization of both telehealth processes and EHR systems to make the most of technology investments.

Moving forward, hospitals and health systems can utilize this peer executive feedback when planning IT support program next steps for structuring scope scalability, aligning continued end-user satisfaction efforts, strategizing remote access support, and deploying telehealth enablement initiatives. Stay tuned for additional healthcare technology insights.

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