The Stoltenberg Blog

Healthcare technology insights for competitive value-based care strategy

Five Questions to Ask IT Support Partners to Overcome "The Great Resignation"

The phrase "the great resignation" is reverberating across industries, and IT resources are no exception. Over the past several months, it has become increasingly difficult to engage top IT support talent. Yet, nearly a year before "the great resignation" became a commonplace phenomenon, Stoltenberg Consulting had already noticed the worrisome trend. Among the CHIME hospital and health system CIOs who responded to our 9th Annual Health IT Industry Outlook Survey in 2021, 55% revealed that finding, retaining, and budgeting for IT talent was a top concern. Since then, health systems have faced fierce competition for all qualified staff, including IT support resources.

By easing operational burdens, reliable IT resources may help health systems attract and retain other mission-critical staff as well. To do so, however, they must ensure they work with highly qualified and understanding IT support staff.


Ask IT support vendors five quality check questions

In today's challenging recruiting and staffing climate, IT support vendors can make it easier for health systems to gain flexible, cost-effective access to skilled talent. For example, some IT support vendors enable IT staff levels to flex up or down as needs vary.

Still, health systems should ensure the vendor's staff meet or exceed the same stringent qualifications expected from their own internal IT team. When searching for an IT support vendor, health systems should ask these five key questions for vendor candidates to assess the quality of their staff resources:


Question 1: What comparable projects have you completed?
Don't settle for a basic client list with simple project descriptions. Ask for examples of similar projects at similar healthcare organizations (e.g., other academic medical centers) within the recent past (e.g., the past five years). A vendor who takes the initiative will provide client organization names, timeframes, locations, reference lists, and scopes that include:

  • The number of resources, systems, and applications covered;
  • Specific project hallmarks; and
  • Proof points that demonstrate projects completed on time and on budget.
Furthermore, a quality vendor should be able to back up this information with reference sheets or case studies.

Question 2: What are the qualifications of your proposed staff resources?
Watch out for IT staffing vendors that provide simple, generic write-ups of their resources that sound similar across the board. Be wary, too, of vendors that offer blind résumés and can't clarify how long analysts have been with their firm. To be sure of staffing practices and avoid any potential bait-and-switch tactics, ask for details about any subcontractors–and the costs associated with such subcontractors–that might be utilized throughout the duration of your project.

Well-respected vendors will not only give you the proposed IT team roster for each IT system and/or application being supported, but they also will provide explicit analysts' résumés denoting contributions to at least three comparable hospital or health system projects, along with a qualifications summary overview per resource–including specialties and EHR system certifications.

Depending on the size and scope of the proposed project, truly solid vendors will even depict a team organizational chart conveying analysts, roles, reporting hierarchy, group or department segmentations, and correlation with internal health system teams. The chart should show how the IT staff resources flow up to respective project managers and overall vendor firm account and executive management. Such specifics illustrate a vendor's commitment, as well as a broad understanding of how its team's capabilities align with your organization's culture and project needs.


Question 3: What resources do you require of your health system clients for a successful engagement?
Be on the alert for pithy, single-paragraph responses to this question. Good IT support vendors will take the opportunity to describe their due diligence and onboarding processes fully. The more explanation, the better. Hospitals and health systems should look for vendors to address:

  • The meetings and correspondence likely to be necessary throughout the project (including frequency, reports/tasks to be covered in each, and who should attend from both the health system's team and the vendor's team);
  • Onboarding and transition documentation, timelines, and the individuals/roles who must be involved;
  • Internal escalation points and contacts; and
  • Any remaining questions or clarifications as needed.

This level of detail shows both the vendor's project expertise and their dedication to your project's success.


Question 4: Given your experience with similar projects, what do you believe are our potential project risks?
Ideally, a vendor should be able to provide at least three in-depth examples from firsthand experiences. The examples should not only identify the risks but also clarify their potential scope by discussing the departments and systems they impact–and to what extent.

A genuine partner vendor will take its response even further by expressing how it plans to coordinate with you to identify, review, and solve such risks throughout the engagement's lifespan.


Question 5: If concerns arise with the project or a proposed resource, what is your procedure for escalating them?
While a concern-free engagement is everyone's desire, a pragmatic approach to any necessary issue resolution is essential.

A thorough vendor will designate issue-level labels in terms of impact, along with descriptions. They also will demonstrate their understanding of your organization by communicating how their escalation process aligns with your existing escalation processes.

At a minimum, look for a vendor to respond to this question by covering four core components of the escalation process:

  1. Submission: The vendor should define the entry point to the escalation process and what that entails.
  2. Acknowledgment: The vendor should explain how an escalated issue is received and acknowledged.
  3. Resolution: The vendor should describe the staff involved in issue resolution and the steps taken to mitigate and remediate an issue.
  4. Communication: The vendor should provide details about how information is disseminated to health system users, leadership, and project teams throughout the escalation process.

Ease healthcare IT staffing challenges
Finding qualified IT support resources was tough for hospitals and health systems even before the pandemic. Now, it's more important to engage the expertise of top IT support vendors to help ease organization-wide operations. The current "great resignation" trend doesn't have to put your IT support at risk. By asking the right questions of IT support vendors, hospitals and health systems can bolster their access to knowledgeable, high-quality IT support talent even in the most challenging times.


Stay tuned for additional health IT leadership insights via the Stoltenberg blog.



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