The Stoltenberg Blog

Healthcare technology insights for competitive value-based care strategy

Five Questions to Ask IT Support Partners to Overcome Staffing Shortages

While healthcare IT staffing challenges weren’t new to the pandemic, accelerated demand for digital transformation and technology support significantly raised IT career burnout. In conducting the annual Health IT Industry Outlook Survey, Stoltenberg Consulting has seen growing concerns for IT resource allocation throughout the last three years. Among CHIME hospital and health system CIOs who participated in our annual survey, 42% revealed that finding, retaining, and budgeting for IT talent was a top concern in 2020. In 2021, that number increased to 55%, and in 2022 this figure hit an all-time high, with nearly two thirds (65%) of CIOs admitting concern over talent strain. Based on this trend, health systems will continue to face fierce competition for qualified IT support resources in the future.

Within the challenging recruiting and staffing climate, IT support vendors can make it easier for health systems to access flexible, skilled talent. Supplemental support resources can cost-effectively ease operational burden, alleviate burnout, and reduce IT turnover by complementing internal team skillsets. However, health systems should ensure vendor staff meet or exceed the same stringent qualifications expected from their own internal IT team. When seeking an IT support vendor, health systems should ask these five key questions to assess the quality of their staff resources:

Ask IT support vendors five quality check questions

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 alert for limited, 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 before the pandemic. Now, it's even more important to engage the expertise of top IT support vendors to help ease organization-wide operations. IT staffing shortages don’t have to put end-user support quality at risk. By asking IT support vendors the right questions, hospitals and health systems can bolster access to knowledgeable, reliable IT talent to advance their support programs.

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

Find Out How to Trim IT Support Costs Today

Find Out How to Trim IT Support Costs Today

Cost-effectively flex IT support staff to meet changes in IT demand. To learn how FlexSourcing can streamline your IT staffing needs, or to hear directly from a current health system client utilizing the program, contact our executive team today.