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Hospital CIOs Share Their EHR Help Desk Improvement Wish Lists

Each year, the Health IT Industry Outlook Report gathers direct hospital and health system CIO feedback on current pain points, operational burdens, budgetary focuses, and more. This year, the annual report celebrated its 10th anniversary with a special segment on the IT and EHR support help desk. When asked for the one thing they wish they could change or add to their current IT help desk if budget were no issue, 60 healthcare CIOs conveyed six core focuses, starting with automation.

  • Automation: EHR help desk automation, such as self-service capability, remote process automation (RPA) and bot functionality, ticket progress alerts and notifications, and auto scripts, is highly desired by both patients and hospital staff alike. Addressing advancing consumer-driven expectations, CIOs ranked automation at the top of their list to drive the triple aim of user convenience, process efficiency, and resource cost savings.

  • Higher-quality resources: In order to effectively address and fully resolve end-user issues, health systems are seeking more well-rounded, experienced help desk agents who are EHR-certified and customer service focused, with clinical understanding. Pushing the outdated ticket-taking approach to the wayside, CIOs aim to mold versatile agent teams who can take on end-user needs across the care continuum to empathetically yet professionally deliver system knowledge transfer and resolution. They must be able to immediately gain stressed clinicians' trust and quickly but thoroughly achieve user satisfaction to return them to patient care.

  • Tools and systems improvement: CIOs expressed growing interest in enhanced help desk call tracking and deployment tools, more robust enterprise ITSMs, improved depth in help desk data visualization, and more predictive analytics of issue trends. These advancements enable hospital and health systems to visualize and apply meaningful action to their help desk data — which can act as a true lens into IT utilization — to proactively pinpoint support coverage concerns, end-user knowledge gaps, areas requiring additional training, workflow bottlenecks, and EHR system or coordinating application issues.

  • Staffing: Contending with a significant industry-wide qualified resource strain, healthcare CIOs wish they had more system support staffing for better analyst distribution across shifts to quickly address end-user issues and eliminate ticket buildup. As facilities split limited resources across help desk, system maintenance, optimization, and special project responsibilities, the help desk functionality often faces the biggest cuts in coverage and capacity. With prolonged wait times, end users get increasingly frustrated, as tickets mount and patient care is potentially delayed by unresolved IT issues. Many healthcare organizations are turning to third-party help desk providers to cost-effectively supplement support after hours or even split coverage by tier type.

  • Process improvement: Knowledge base maintenance and utilization for both end users and analysts stands out as a key process improvement request. A hospital's EHR system acts as a living thing that's constantly optimizing, gaining coordinating tools and applications, and moving through upgrades. Knowledge bases need to keep up with the change to empower more informed users. Doing so drives down repeat user errors (and associated wasted support cost), clinician frustration, and new analyst staff learning curve delays. Ensure system definitions, how-to instruction sets, and accompanying visuals are always up to date. Maintain a top-ten most common issues and resolution explanation set, breaking them out by module if possible.

    While extremely helpful, knowledge bases cannot be an end-all resource. Surveyed CIOs also say they aim to improve help desk agent onboarding and knowledge transfer. Utilize direct agent shadowing, scenario-based role playing, and mentorship programs to mold new team members. They need to not only understand the technical side of support, but also hear how they impact users' daily tasks to humanize the help desk.

    Finally, with the healthcare cloud market expected to reach over $76 billion by 2026, CIOs wish their help desk process improvements better supported and integrated with HRIS and cloud platforms.

  • Support segmentation: The remaining area where healthcare CIOs wish they could strengthen their help desks is having multi-tiered support levels with specialized agents. The help desk needs to better serve differing user groups and their specific needs across the entire care enterprise — from clinicians and care support staff, to operations teams and the business office. Through tactics like IT rounding throughout health system departments, including the ambulatory setting, help desk teams are finding new ways to make support more convenient for users, addressing their roles' unique concerns related to IT.

Each of these six core help desk features offers healthcare organizations an opportunity to drive optimized utilization and value from their EHR systems. Though often overlooked, the help desk serves as the vital bridge between people and technology. Through its revamp strategy, healthcare leaders can elicit higher physician satisfaction and better quality patient care interactions across the care continuum.

To view the full 10th annual Health IT Industry Outlook Report, featuring hospital and health system CIO — all members of CHIME — feedback, see below.

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